Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Burning Bush: On the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Burning Bush: On the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God

Article excerpt

The Burning Bush: On the Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God. By Sergius Bulgakov. Translated by Thomas Allan Smith. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2009. xxiv + 191 pp. $28.00 (paper).

The work of Sergms Bulgakov, one of the most controversial Orthodox theologians of the early twentieth century, is becoming popular again. As Bulgakovs sophiology regains popularity, Eerdmans has published translations of several of his books in the last few years. Here, Bulgakov contrasts the Orthodox understanding of the personal sinlessness of the Virgin Mary with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception. Bulgakov's main point is to argue that Mary was subject to original sin while being free of personal sin, unlike the Roman Catholic belief that her immaculate conception made her free from original sin. As expected, Bulgakov starts with tradition, in this case the liturgy surrounding the "Theotokos," or "God-bearer."

The book consists of four chapters. The first shows the liturgical understanding of the Theotokos's sinlessness. The second focuses on her original sin and how and why Mary must have the taint of origina] sin. The third chapter focuses on his debate with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception. The last chapter focuses on the festivals surrounding the Mother of God. The book concludes with three excursuses dealing with the scriptural and patristic evidence for his understanding of the Virgin and the Divine Sophia.

Because Bulgakov writes for an Orthodox authence, he uses language and concepts not necessarily familiar to those outside of Orthodox traditions. Thomas Smith, the translator, provides not only an introduction to the book and concepts, but gives an introduction to Bulgakov and his life. This makes the introduction essential reading for those unfamiliar with Orthodox traditions. Smith also gives a list of Bulgakovs sources, which is a crucial tool for any académie reader. …

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