Our Lady, Destroyer of All Heresies
To conclude the month of August, the month of the Assumption of Our Lady, I would like to meditate briefly on one her titles: ‘Destroyer of all Heresies’. Heresy is a false belief and it’s a title of Our Lady we don’t hear much these days, but it is very relevant as there are many challenges to the Faith and there is much confusion about what we believe, even within the Church.
The Church has always given Our Lady the title ‘Destroyer of all Heresies’ because we know from the very beginning when Satan deceived our first parents and they committed the first sin, he would wait for Our Lady’s heel to crush him and his seed (Genesis 3:15). Among those seeds are the lies of heresy as he is the Father of Lies.
There were many heresies in the early centuries of the Church and many a battle was fought to preserve the true doctrine of Christ and of the Catholic Church which He founded. One example over which there was much controversy we say every Sunday in the Nicene Creed which dates from 325 AD: “Begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father”. This means JESUS is eternal and of the same substance as God the Father and is equal to God the Father. In the fourth century this truth was under attack when many people were saying JESUS is inferior to the Father, that He is not eternal, that He is not consubstantial with the Father and therefore not fully God. This teaching about Who Christ is is very important because it affects the way we relate to God, how we relate to others and even the way society is, as it did for centuries in Christendom in which Christ truly reigned as King. Doctrine has an impact. St Paul in his letter to the Galatians put it like this: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (1:8).
But how does Our Lady destroy heresies? After all, she never preached a sermon and she never excommunicated anyone! Our Lady is Destroyer of Heresies primarily because of who she is. Who Mary is guards the truth about God and humanity. For example, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 Mary was solemnly declared to be the Mother of God or ‘Theotokos’, again defending the divinity of Christ which was under attack by the Arian heretics. Then in the seventh century there was a decree issued to destroy all images and icons because the Scriptures say we must not make any graven images. But St John Damascene (675-749) looked to the example of Our Lady and that the Word had become flesh in her “and we saw His glory” (John 1:14). With God having taken on human flesh and become man, matter was now holy and so we could depict the divine in sacred art.
Mary still teaches us truths today. When the family is under attack she teaches us with Our Lord and St Joseph the importance of the natural family. Seeing the crib at Christmas reminds us that our world is founded on the family. Then in the area of human life, Mary carried Our Lord in her womb to her cousin St Elizabeth where St John the Baptist ‘leapt for joy’ and was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother – an embryo sanctified by an embryo. Surely this teaches us the dignity of every unborn child. Mary destroys heresies!
On the front page of this newsletter Mary is depicted beating down a demon with a club and protecting a little child from his poisonous lies. Satan is trying to damn us all through the heresies he spews forth into the world. Mary our mother and immaculate Queen will protect us her children from his evil attacks and she will crush his head. Let us invoke her now: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC