Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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In this paper, we will be discussing the book Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, written by Johannes Herolt between 1435-1440, and translated by C.C Swinton Bland. The book is a collection of miracles performed by, or relating to, the Virgin Mary. In the Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary holds a high place among the saints. She is said to have conceived the child Jesus as a virgin, and to be the only woman ever born without Original Sin. Throughout the history of Christianity she has been said to have appeared to people in numerous apparitions, and interceded for mankind through various miracles and signs. This book tells of medieval appearances and miracles made by the Blessed Virgin, to saints and sinners alike.

Throughout Miracles, the various accounts of the Virgin Mary allow for historians to examine many topics about Christianity. In this paper, we will be discussing the idea that these miracles were used to instruct individuals about living a Christian life, following the doctrines, and understanding the New Testament. Teaching these principles has been the ongoing mission of Christianity for two thousand years, and making these principles understood has taken on various forms of representation. In Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we see how stories of the Blessed Virgin and her miracles worked to promote the understanding and adherences to Christian doctrine and reiterate the teachings of the New Testament.

An element of Christian doctrine that comes up frequently throughout the text are the sacraments. In Christianity, the sacraments are ceremonies that provide divine grace to their practitioner, and must be observed in order to attain salvation. For example, on page 47, a story of a servant who was dying is commanded by the Blessed Virgin to receive the last rites: “The Virgin said: ‘Get a priest to come to you-repent and confess your sins; take the sacrament of the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, my Son, and the other sacraments of the church, and afterwards, I will carry you to the rest prepared for you.” (pg 47) This is one example of how the Blessed Virgin promoted interaction with the sacraments. Moreover, it was not only necessary to interact with the sacraments, but to believe and follow the sacramental rules. A story in the text has a woman who lives a holy life, but always hides a certain sin when going to confession, something that is against Christian teaching. When she died, she was resurrected by Jesus through the prayers of Mary, and told to repent her sin (pg 19)

Another element of Christian doctrine that is present in Miracles is the avoidance of sin. According to Christians, the sins of anger, lust, sloth, gluttony, pride, envy, and greed are condemned and seen as an affront to God’s law. The sin of lust is most often part of these miracle stories, featuring people who fall into the sin and are helped by the Blessed Virgin. In one section, an Abbess fornicates with a page, and becomes pregnant, raising the suspicions of the other nuns. When the Bishop visits, he inspects the Abbess, but finds nothing because the Blessed Virgin had sent the child to a hermit. “And forthwith she told the two angels to relieve her of the burden of her child, and to give it to a certain hermit… When this had been done and the Abbess saved from disgrace, Mary warned her to beware of sin in the future.” (pg 42) The end of this passage stresses elements of the Catholic teaching such as forgiveness, but also the avoidance of sin in future.

The sin of pride is illustrated through a man interested in “worldly vanities” (pg 123) who is converted by the Blessed Virgin, while the sin of anger is condemned by a story of a monk who is subject to “mad outbursts of passion” (pg 91). There are many more of these stories that involve the consequences and forgiveness of sins, but there are also stories about Mary that see the virtuous rewarded. Chastity and virginity are held in great esteem, with countless...
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