The great thing about heresy is that is an occasion when being wrong is right. Heresy can lead to truth. This is our experience from the first centuries of Christianity. The heretics helped the Fathers of the Church clarify many aspects of the faith.
Pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph
It is good to think back on the pilgrimage that Joseph and Mary had to make, with Baby Jesus still within the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Even though they were destined to become the Holy Family, they had to live Advent with a spirit of seeking.
So often, we can make the same experience that Mary makes on her pilgrimage from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She goes there to seek the Savior, only to find that he has been with her the entire time. She is not able to escape the love of a good God who has chosen her to be an instrument of salvation in a very special manner. Sometimes, our mistakes end up leading us in the right direction.
Mother of God
Mary was called to be the Mother of God. The early Church Fathers were united in giving her this title. In Greek, the title is “Theotokos.” Mary is the one who bears God within her. The human vessel who is the mother of Jesus must be the mother of God. Some early Church heresies tried to deny this. But to deny the reality of Mary’s motherhood leads to a denial of the true humanity of Christ. The great news is that heresy can lead to truth.
Heresy can lead to truth
Arianism, one of the first great heresies, judged Jesus to be subordinate to God the Father, following the scheme of Plotinus who proposed God and the Demiurge. This secondary god seemed to match Jesus in the mind of this heretical priest. The theory of Arianism was definitively discarded at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, even if some followers persisted for centuries.
Refusing to acknowledge the Mother of God
An offshoot of Arianism is Nestorianism. The priest Nestor proposed that Mary was the mother of the humanity, but not of the divinity of Christ. Thus, it was impossible to call her the “Mother of God.” The Church Fathers stood up against him. After winning the battle for Christ’s true divinity at Nicaea, they stood up for Mary’s Motherhood of God at the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Do Catholics Adore Mary?
Protestants love to accuse Catholics of adoring Mary. But nothing can be further from the truth. What is happening is that we can use the rosary to walk with Mary to Bethlehem. All true prayers to Mary are Christological in nature. When we pray the “Hail Mary,” We re-affirm our faith in Christ repeatedly. The Church offers for our meditation the mysteries of Christ’s life, thus cementing in our minds and hearts the truth that we can know only in him.
What We Learn From Mary
We learn from Mary how to seek Christ. She was his Mother and learned to be in tune with his heartbeats. Mary knew what he needed in every moment. She began with a sense of awe and respect. We, too, need to humble ourselves before Jesus if we are going to receive the gift of his presence during this Christmas season. Advent is an opportunity for all of us to place our hearts in his hands and love him as best as we can.
During this Advent, will you have an attitude of seeking? I think it can be key for making sure that you get out of Advent what we are all hoping for, a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.