Our Lady's Evangelical Heart
One of the first Marian apparitions in the history of the church was recorded by St. Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 390) in his biography of St. Gregory the Wonderworker (ca. 250). The vision is very simple, just the Theotokos appearing with her adopted son, St. John the apostle, whom she instructs to teach young Gregory the true faith. Although it’s brief, I think this story beautifully illustrates the evangelical heart our Lady has, and has had throughout the ages:
Although he could not bear to look upon the apparition, Gregory [Thaumaturgus] heard the speech of those who had appeared, as they discussed the problems that were troubling him. From their words, Gregory not only obtained an exact understanding of the doctrine of the faith but also was able to discover the names of the two persons who had appeared to him, for they called each other by name.
For it is said that he heard the one who had appeared in womanly form exhorting John the Evangelist to explain to the young man the mystery of the true [faith]. John, in his turn, declared that he was completely willing to please the Mother of the Lord even in this matter and that this was the one thing closest to his heart. And so the discussion coming to a close, and after they had made it quite clear and precise for him, the two disappeared from his sight.
“Life of St. Gregory the Wonderworker,” PG 46, 909-12, translation from Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Church Fathers, E-book ed., pp. 122-124