I recall a moderately recent news item about a questionnaire which was put to an Evangelical grouping. One of the questions asked whether the respondent agreed with this statement:
"Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God."
Cunning. By highlighting what look like positive words about the Lord, it lures the unwary and the uncatechised into affirming heresy. I was not surprised that ... I think ... 78% ticked the AGREE box.
Guiltily, I recall a Parish experience of my own. I let the staff at the Church of England Primary School write the text of a Nativity Play to be put on by the tinies in my Church. One of their prayers thanked God "for creating Jesus".
Bad, that. My fault. I should have been burned, together with the head teacher and the heretical tiny.
S John Henry Newman developed a rather tasty hypothesis to the effect that it was Arius who accurately analysed the position Mary truly occupies within the Church (Development Part 1 Cap IV Section II para 8). This is how it goes.
The Arians, wrote Newman, said a lot of fine-sounding stuff about Christ. For them, He was "the God of the Evangelical Covenant, and the actual Creator of the Universe"; He had "an ineffable origin before all worlds"; He was "High above all creatures as the type of all the works of God's Hands"; "the King of all Saints, the Intercessor for man with God, the Object of worship, the Image of the Father".
But this was not enough "because it was not all".
The Arians failed to acknowledge Him as God; as "the One, Everlasting, Infinite, Supreme Being".
Our Blessed Lord does not fit into the slot devised by Arius. But that slot does exist. So who, Newman asks, was "the predestined heir of that Majesty?"
You can guess his answer. "A throne was seen, far above all created poweers, meditorial, intercessory; a title archetypal; a crown bright as the morning star; a glory issuing from the eternal throne; robes pure as the heavens; and a sceptre over all; and who was the predestined heir of that Majesty? Since it was not high enough for the Highest, who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, 'the Mother of fair love, and fear, and holy hope,' 'exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho,' 'created from the beginning before the world' in God's counsels, and 'in Jerusalem was her power'? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."
Our great Saint, Patron, and Doctor has again played the simple and satisfying trick with which I began this blogpost: followers of Popular Protestantism, when they complain that Catholics and Orthodox put Mary into the place belonging to Jesus, do but betray the simple fact that they themselves are thoughtless Arians who do not put Jesus high enough. Newman has lured them into his trap ... and ... snap! ... he has sprung its door. The Argumentum ad hominem ... in Locke's sense of the phrase ... has once again delivered the goods. And now S John Henry makes the Kill explicit: "The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy."
Surely, it was this sort of turning of the tables that drove Archdeacon Hare to inveigh against "Dr Newman's Circaean Wand".
I don't know about you, but there are moments when I feel myself so easily transported back to the common-room in Oriel nearly two centuries ago, reckoned the cleverest in Oxford ... standing there is a neatly dressed young tutor, the light of the candles reflected from the glass of his spectacles but not quite concealing the mocking amusement in his eyes.
"Patrimony"? Exactly. Look no further. Oret pro nobis.
Gaude. Maria Virgo: cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo.