I got caught up in a discusion on the early church father, Epiphanius. It was brought up that Epiphanius charged the Collyridians with worshipping Mary. A Roman Catholic responded, "...you seem to have failed to consider the ramifications of using St. Epiphanius' refutation of the Collyridians as an argument against the veneration of Mary. There, he explicitly lays out what Marian latria would look like..." Then, the following citation was given:
For certain women decorate a barber's chair or square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread;[St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, Section VII, 1,6]
This is a classic example of reading with Roman Catholic glasses. Epiphanius does not specify a latria / dulia distinction. This is being read in to avoid the obvious. Here's the quote:
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): "And who but women are the teachers of this? Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited. As in our earlier chapter on Quintilla, Maximilla and Priscilla, so here the devil has seen fit to disgorge ridiculous teachings from the mouths of women. For certain women decorate a barber’s chair or a square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary’s name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread; I discussed parts of this right in my letter to Arabia. Now, however, I shall speak plainly of it and, with prayer to God, give the best refutations of it that I can, so as to grub out the roots of this idolatrous sect and with God’s help, be able to cure certain people of this madness." Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 59. Against Collyridians who make offerings to Mary, 1,6-7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 621.
Epiphanius also states,
Let no one eat of the error which has arisen on St. Mary’s account. Even though ‘The tree is lovely’ it is not for food; and even though Mary is all fair, and is holy and held in honor, she is not to be worshiped. . . . They must not say, ‘We honor the queen of heaven.’ Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 79. Against Collyridians, 7,7; 8,2 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 627.
But, there's always a Catholic response- "Not sure what your point is supposed to be here. We both agree that offering sacrifice to Mary is idolatry. That is the line which we believe delineates "worship"....The whole of this section is perfectly in line with what we're saying - don't worship Mary. Worshipping her is an abomination."
The point is quite simple. This person is reading a later Romanist theological distinctive back into the words of Epiphanius. Epiphanius did not delineate aspects of Marian worship into latria, dulia, or hyper dulia. He did not delineate what he saw into the category of latria. The paradigm of latria/dulia was assumed by this Roman Catholic, not proven.
The Mariology of Epiphanius is not completely similar to modern day Roman Catholics. He didn't believe in the Assumption as it is currently stated, he says not to call Mary "Queen of Heaven," for him it is not a necessary matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity, and he holds the least popular view as to the interpretation of the phrase "brothers of Jesus"- holding these are the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. In all these instances, from a current Roman Catholic paradigm, Catholics would disagree with Epiphanius.
Within current Roman Catholicism, lighting a candle to a saint is perfectly acceptable, and not "worship." Why? Because Rome says so. The situation described by Epiphanius is not, according to the Catholic I was dialoging with. Why? because Rome says so. One wonders what Epiphanius would think of lighting candles to Mary. I leave it to Catholics to explain why lighting a candle is not an aspect of worship, while decorating a barber's chair or square seat, spreading a cloth on it, setting out bread and offering it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partaking of the bread is.
Epiphanius words are from long ago. Roman Catholics claim their faith today is the same as those from long ago. Epiphanius proves it is not. Catholics like to argue that those ECF's closer to the time of Christ and the apostles are somehow more "in the know" on things like Mariology. Obviously, Epiphanius presents quite a problem for a such a view.
Here are some other tidbits (Thanks to David King for his work and transcriptions of the quotes above and below)
Here's Epiphanius on Mary's Assumption- a tradition allegedly dating back to the first century, and if I recall, his comment below is the earliest "tradition" of Mary's death- that is, no one knows!
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): The holy virgin may have died and been buried---her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Or she may have been put to death---as the Scripture says, "And a sword shall pierce her soul" her fame is among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, [rests] amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end. But we must not honor the saints to excess; we must honor their Master.
And for Epiphanius, it is not a necessay matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity-
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Now how could Joseph dare to have relations with the Virgin Mary whose holiness was so great? But even if she had sexual relations---and perish that thought!---what good would it do us to inquire into this? Which is the better choice, to leave the matter to God, or to insist on what is bad? Plainly, scripture has not told us that we may not have eternal life, but will go to judgment, unless we believe that Mary had relations again. Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 78. Against Antidicomarians, 15,4 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 619.
And one last thing, let's not forget this gem of alleged wisdom from Epiphanius: "Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited."