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An example of the Blessed Virgin Mary interceding to prevent heresy in ancient times

4 min • Digitized on May 8, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 79
By St. John Henry Newman

St. Gregory Nyssen 1, then, a native of Cappadocia in the fourth century, relates that his name-sake, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea, surnamed Thaumaturgus, in the century preceding, shortly before he was called to the priesthood, received in a vision a Creed, which is still extant, from the Blessed Mary at the hands of St. John. The account runs thus:—

He was deeply pondering theological doctrine, which the heretics of the day depraved.

“In such thoughts,” says his name-sake of Nyssa, “he was passing the night, when one appeared, as if in human form, aged in appearance, saintly in the fashion of his garments, and very venerable both in grace of countenance and general mien.

“Amazed at the sight, he started from his bed, and asked who it was, and why he came; but, on the other calming the perturbation of his mind with his gentle voice, and saying he had appeared to him by divine command on account of his doubts, in order that the truth of the orthodox faith might be revealed to him, he took courage at the word, and regarded him with a mixture of joy and fright.

“Then, on his stretching his hand straight forward and pointing with his fingers at something on one side, he followed with his eyes the extended hand, and saw another appearance opposite to the former, in shape of a woman, but more than human. …

“When his eyes could not bear the apparition, he heard them conversing together on the subject of his doubts; and thereby not only gained a true knowledge of the faith, but learned their names, as they addressed each other by their respective appellations.

“And thus he is said to have heard the person in woman’s shape bid ‘John the Evangelist’ disclose to the young man the mystery of godliness; and he answered that he was ready to comply in this matter with the wish of ‘the Mother of the Lord,’ and enunciated a formulary, well-turned and complete, and so vanished.

“He, on the other hand, immediately committed to writing that divine teaching of his mystagogue, and henceforth preached in the Church according to that form, and bequeathed to posterity, as an inheritance, that heavenly teaching, by means of which his people are instructed down to this day, being preserved from all heretical evil.”

He proceeds to rehearse the Creed thus given, “There is One God, Father of a Living Word,” &c.

Bull, after quoting it in his work upon the Nicene Faith, alludes to this history of its origin, and adds, “No one should think it incredible that such a providence should befall a man whose whole life was conspicuous for revelations and miracles, as all ecclesiastical writers who have mentioned him (and who has not?) witness with one voice.”

Here she is represented as rescuing a holy soul from intellectual error. This leads me to a further reflection. You seem, in one place in your Volume, to object to the Antiphon, in which it is said of her, “All heresies thou hast destroyed alone.” Surely the truth of it is verified in this age, as in former times, and especially by the doctrine concerning her, on which I have been dwelling. She is the great exemplar of prayer in a generation, which emphatically denies the power of prayer in toto, which determines that fatal laws govern the universe, that there cannot be any direct communication between earth and heaven, that God cannot visit His earth, and that man cannot influence His providence.

1 Vid. Essay on Doctr. Dev. p. 386.

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