Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It isn’t possible to be Christocentric if we are not solidly Marian. Mary: destroyer of all heresies.

Photo from eclectic imaging. Lady altar of the Church of San Carlo in Corso with
a variation on the antiphon quoted in this post. "You only have destroyed
all heresies."
This might seem a rather extreme notion and yet it is referred to in a letter from the Congregation for the Clergy on the occasion of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God.

The letter quotes the antiphon from the old Roman Breviary and the Tract in the Mass Salve sancte parens from the 1962 Roman Missal:
Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo – Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universal world’.
But here is the letter in full (with some addedcemphases):

The connection between the Lord’s birth and Mary’s Divine maternity is clearly expressed in one of St Cyril of Alexandria’s (444) twelve anathemas, which was accepted by the Council of Ephesus (431) and defined the dogma of the faith that Mary of Nazareth is the Mother of God: ‘If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God made flesh, let him be anathema’. (Denz-Schonm, 252 - ) Only a few days ago we adored the presence of the Word Incarnate in the humble manager at Bethlehem.   Now, the Church invites us to turn our gaze towards that other magnificent figure in the crib, the Mother of God, God made flesh.

In recent times the devotion to the Mother of God has weakened in some sectors of the Church.  There were concerns, by some, that honouring Mary too much may turn our attention from the adoration of Christ.  It was therefore deemed appropriate the radicalise the Christo centricity, highlighting only the uniqueness of Christ’s salvific mediation to the detriment of the participative mediation of the angels, saints and the Mother of God.  In doing so they have forgotten the ancient adage:  ad Jesum per Mariam – ‘to Jesus through Mary’.  The Mother always leads us towards her Son, and never further away from Him.  The II Vatican Council expressed this teaching through the following words:  :  For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.(Lumen Gentium, n.60 ).

In reality we must recognise that Mary’s role does not constitute an obstacle, but rather is an efficacious aid the admission of faith in Christ.  The Mother of God, with her virginal purity also represents and defends the purity of Christian doctrine.  The following beautiful Marian antiphon is found in the breviary: ‘Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo – Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, thou only hast killed all heresies in the universal world’.  The renowned biblical scholar, Ignatius de la Potterie, commented on this antiphon as follows: ‘It is not that Mary had done something in her life against heresies, but the recognition of Mary in the Marian dogmas, that is a sign and bulwark of the steadfastness of the faith’. 

Cardinal Ratzinger, in his book-interview with Vittorio Messori, (Report on the faith) highlighted that ‘Mary triumphed over every heresy’.  If we grant Mary the place that is suggested in Tradition and dogma, we find her already truly central to the Christology of the Church.  The first dogmas, regarding her perpetual virginity and divine maternity, and also the ultimate dogmas (the Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption into heavenly glory), are the secure basis for the Christian faith in the incarnation of the Son of God. The Marian Dogmas implicitly confess both faith in the living God, who can intervene in the material world, and also, the faith regarding the ultimate realities (resurrection of the flesh and therefore the transfiguration of the same material world).  Also, one hopes for the realisation of the project to re-introduce, preferably on the feast of Mary’s bodily Assumption to heaven on the 15th August, the beautiful antiphon put aside for the liturgical reform.’  (in 30 Giorni, 12 [October 1995], p.71).

It isn’t possible to be Christocentric if we are not solidly Marian.  In these days the Church prays in a particular way for peace.  It is appropriate that the faithful turn to the ever Virgin Mother of God, to obtain from the Lord, through her intersession, the gift of peace for every one of us, for the Church, and the world.


  1. I have always wondered if Our Lady's prominence within Islam (the largest "heresy" of all) in some way demonstrates her concern for those heretics who would deny the divinity of her Son. In support of this may be the Marian apparitions which have been reported in Egypt, sighted by Muslims as well as Christians.

  2. Hi Fr. John, I found your blog linked through Joyce's The Little Way and came over because your post title immediately grabbed my attention. Thank you for the explanation of Mary's role throughout church history and I agree, there has been weakening in devotion to Mary for fear of giving the wrong impression.

    I heard this recently and I think it helps me fully venerate Mary without guilt~ Christian love is that the more you love, your ability to love increases. So, by loving Mary you do not take any love away from Jesus. It only increases.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Father!


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