The unfolding of the Incarnation and Mary’s role

June 12, 2021 • 2 min

From St. John Henry Newman’s Letter to Dr. Pusey in reply to his Eirenicon, page 92

It is in this way that the revealed doctrine of the Incarnation exerted a stronger and a broader influence on Christians, as they more and more apprehended and mastered its meaning and its bearings.

It is contained in the brief and simple declaration of St. John, “The Word was made flesh;” but it required century after century to spread it out in its fulness, and to imprint it energetically on the worship and practice of the Catholic people as well as on their faith.

Athanasius was the first and the great teacher of it. He collected together the inspired notices scattered through David, Isaias, St. Paul, and St. John, and he engraved indelibly upon the imaginations of the faithful, as had never been before, that man is God, and God is man, that in Mary they meet, and that in this sense Mary is the centre of all things.

He added nothing to what was known before, nothing to the popular and zealous faith that her Son was God; he has left behind him in his works no such definite passages about her as those of St. Irenaeus or St. Epiphanius; but he brought the circumstances of the Incarnation home to men’s minds, by the manifold evolutions of his analysis, and secured it for ever from perversion.

Still, however, there was much to be done; we have no proof that Athanasius himself had any special devotion to the Blessed Virgin; but he laid the foundations on which that devotion was to rest, and thus noiselessly and without strife, as the first Temple in the Holy City, she grew up into her inheritance, and was “established in Sion and her power was in Jerusalem.”

Such was the origin of that august cultus which has been paid to the Blessed Mary for so many centuries in the East and in the West. That in times and places it has fallen into abuse, that it has even become a superstition, I do not care to deny; for, as I have said above, the same process which brings to maturity carries on to decay, and things that do not admit of abuse have very little life in them.

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