The Most Holy Name of Mary
Part  II

by Mark Alessio

We know something of the abundant graces with which Mary has been showered by the Blessed Trinity. To God alone is revealed the depths of this ocean of grace, but through the papal definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, we are given some small glimpse into its clear waters. Jesus died on Calvary because of His boundless love for humanity. Imagine, then, the love He feels for His own Mother. Imagine to what degree the name of Mary is a name beloved by God, and with what virtue this name-----the name of the Immaculate Conception and Queen of Heaven-----is imbued:

"Your name, O Mary, is a precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of Divine grace. Let this ointment of salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls." [St. Ambrose +397]
"O great, O gentle, O most lovable Mary, Thy Holy Name cannot be spoken without inflaming the heart. To those who love Thee, if is Unspeakable consolation and joy even to think of Thee; Thou art a sweet memory to those who honor Thee." [St. Bernard +1153]

"When I pronounce the name of Mary, I feel myself inflamed with such love and joy, that between the tears and happiness with which I pronounce this beautiful name, I feel as though my heart might leave my breast. For this sweet name is like a honeycomb dissolving in the innermost recesses of my soul." [Blessed Henry Suso +1365]

"Your name, O Mother of God, is filled with Divine graces and blessings."
[St. Methodius +847]

"The name of Mary is the key of the gates of Heaven." [St. Ephrem of Syria +373]

The Blessed Virgin does not exist in a vacuum, nor does devotion to Her. Her Spiritual Maternity is tuned to the rebirth of souls, and Her desire is that each and every man and woman avail themselves of the graces won by Our Lord on Calvary, for Jesus Christ is the End of all Marian devotions. God could have ordained the Incarnation in any manner He chose, and have effected our Redemption in any number of ways: What He DID choose was to have the Mother of the Redeemer play a vital role in both. Cardinal John Henry Newman [d. 1890] underscored the implications of this fact:
"I say then, when once we have mastered the idea, that Mary bore, suckled, and handled the Eternal in the form of a child, what limit is conceivable to the rush and flood of thoughts which such a doctrine involves? . . . It was the creation or a new idea and of a new sympathy, a new faith and worship, when the holy Apostles announced that God had become incarnate; and a supreme love and devotion to Him became possible, which seemed hopeless before that revelation. But, besides this, a second range of thoughts was opened to mankind, unknown before, and unlike any other, as soon as it was understood that that Incarnate God had a Mother." [A Letter to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, 1866]
The Incarnation brought about "a new sympathy" between God and man, and "a supreme love and devotion to Him became possible, which seemed hopeless before that revelation." At one time, God would say to Moses, "Thou canst not see My face: for man shall not see Me and live . . . And when My glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock, and protect thee with My right hand, till I pass: And I will take away My hand, and thou shalt see My back parts: but My face thou canst not see." How interesting it is to compare these verses with the following lines concerning Our Lord from the Gospel of St. John: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, [and we saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,] full of grace and truth."

Here is indeed a new sympathy between Creator and creature. Through the Incarnation, the birth of the Incarnate Word of the Virgin Mary, the Omnipotent God Who had declared, "thou canst not see My face, for man shall not see Me and live," would stand silent before human accusers. And these accusers did not behold the face of God only, but they blindfolded Him, and smote His face. And they asked Him, saying: Prophesy, who is it that struck Thee?" [Lk. 22: 64] Who could ever have conceived of such Divine condescension? God becomes man, and is abused by men. Everything Jesus taught, everything He did, was done for the sake of humanity, for the salvation of souls. This is the loving God Who gave us Mary, and who enriched Her very name with grace. So, when we think of Our Lady, and utter Her name, we are reminded of Her Son, of His Birth, Passion, Death and Resurrection:

"After the most holy and adorable Name of Jesus, there is no name more glorious or more powerful than the name of Mary. At the mention of this name, the Angels rejoice and the devils tremble; through this invocation of this name, sinners obtain grace and pardon." [St. Peter Canisius +1597]

"The name of Mary came from the treasury of the Divinity." [St. Peter Damian +1072]

"For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby [Wi. 13:5)," teaches the Scriptures. Mary's beauty of soul and body, her abundance of graces and her powers of mediation are all indicators, pointing back to her Creator, to the One Who fashioned such a marvelous creature. If the Creator may be "known" by the "greatness of the beauty" of the creature, then we may give thanks to God for Mary. And more than that. By observing Her, we may learn something of Him. When we hear Her name, we think of Him:
" As often as the sweet name of Mary comes to your lips, you ought to represent to yourself a masterpiece of God's power, so perfect and so sublime that even the arm of the Almighty could not produce anything more perfect in the shape of a pure creature."
[St. Leonard of Port Maurice +175]

"Wherever you may go, or wherever you may be, implore Jesus and call upon Mary . . . Sing these two names, sing them in your heart, sing them with your lips, sing them with your hands." [Ven. Thomas a' Kempis +1471]

"Jesus and Mary." The two names alone, devoid even of any explicit petitions, stand as an invocation of God's mercy. "Who is She that cometh forth as the morning rising," ask the Canticles, "fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?" This question is asked again in the Canticles: "Who is She that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh, and frankincense, and of all the powders of the perfumer? . . . Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon Her beloved?"

Of these inspired texts, St. Alphonsus Liguori [+1787] commented, "We gather from the sacred Canticles, that on the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, the Angels asked Her name three times." And what is the reason for this threefold query? St. Alphonsus responds with a quotation from Richard of St. Laurence: "And why do the Angels so often ask the name of their Queen?  . . . It was so sweet even to the Angels to hear it pronounced, that they desired to hear that sweet name in reply.

And what of mankind? Why does the name of a human woman mean so much to those still struggling in this "valley of tears?" What bond do we recognize, or intuit in our hearts, which so unites the Blessed Virgin to God the Father that He would honor her name above all others after that of His Only-Begotten Son?

"Can the Father help loving what the Son loves? Is it not in the very person of God the Son that Heaven and earth are to be reconciled; and are not all our hopes actually founded on His being the eternal bond between God and man? So that it must be taken as indisputably established that She, through whom this bond was formed, will be especially loved." [Bishop Jacques Benigne Bossuet, d. 1704, Sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin]
The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. There is a hierarchy, a sense of "strata," governing its inhabitants. The Angels are the courtiers of the Heavenly court. There are special places of distinction reserved there for the Martyrs and virgins who gave all they had for Christ. Jesus is "King," and Mary is "Queen," of this Court. This Queen stands in a unique, unparalleled relation to the Blessed Trinity, for She is First Daughter, Mother and Spouse to the Three Divine Persons. Therefore, because God is just and good, He will love Her with a special love, a love reserved for Her alone because of who and what She is. There is an interpretation for the name "Mary" which reflects this simple truth. Based on the supposition that the name has Egyptian roots [meryt = "much loved"], the Virgin's name would be understood to mean, "Beloved of God." Again, it is an appropriate and fitting title for Her.

It is always an enjoyable and beneficial endeavor to ponder the Blessed Virgin. Regarding Her name, it might seem odd to some to focus on a topic which can be considered "peripheral" to the great struggle for salvation. It is one thing, perhaps, to make an in-depth study of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, for the ultimate good of souls hinges on an acceptance or rejection of this Revealed Truth. But, Our Lady's name? Why give it a second thought?

"Whether you eat or drink," wrote St. Paul, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God." [1 Co. 10: 31] If fulfilling the needs of the body can be occasions for giving glory to God for His mercy and bounty, then how much more can we do so through our intellects and wills . . . the rational faculties which enable us to ponder the things of God, and to accept them?

To ponder the name of Mary, and its possible meaning, is to create a mosaic, a three-dimensional picture of the love and solicitude of Jesus Christ for mankind. It is to meditate on all facets of our redemption, from the still serenity of Bethlehem to the chaotic madness of Calvary. "When we talk on earthly subjects or politics, we grow weary," wrote St. John Vianney [+1859], "but when we talk of the Holy Virgin, it is always new." Like a recitation of the Rosary, which keeps the historical particulars of salvation history ever before our minds and hearts, a meditation on Our Lady's name will reward us with fresh inspiration.

And more. The name of the Mother of God is efficacious. Her Son desires that we invoke it in our trials and necessities, as did John Sobieski and the Catholic warriors at Lepanto. He has proven this again and again, and the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary is yet another reminder that when we invoke this name, we call upon not only a Queen, not only a Mother . . . but upon an Intercessor, Advocate and Mediatrix:

"As wax melts before fire, so do the devils lose their power against those souls who remember the name of Mary and devoutly invoke it." [St. Bonaventure + 1274]

" As breathing is not only a sign but even a cause of life, so the name of Mary, which is constantly found on the lips of God's servants, both proves that they are truly alive, and at the same time causes and preserves their life, and gives them every succor . . . nay Your name, O Mother of God, be the last sound that escapes my lips." [St. Germanus of Constantinople +732]

Nor can we forget the favors bestowed down through the ages to supplicants at pilgrimage spots such as Lourdes, Fatima and Santiago de Compostela, favors which are summed up in the words of Blessed Raymond Jordano to the Virgin, quoted by St. John Eudes in his book on Mary's childhood: "Thy name, above the names of the Saints, has virtue to comfort the weak, to cure the sick, to give sight to the blind, to soften hearts, to encourage the weary, to fortify those who combat and to overthrow the tyranny of the demons." Some truly inspired meditations on the Holy Name of Mary have been set down by Catholics throughout the ages. Often, the intent was to make a doctrinal point, to teach something about the ways and mercy of God, and to inspire souls to avail themselves of Mary, a mother and an intercessor of such might that it can truly be said, with no scruple, that "Her Son esteems Her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy Her, that when She prays it seems as if She rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid [St. Peter Damian]."

Because Our Lady has been rightly called "God's Masterpiece," it is only fitting to give the final word to a poet, to one who chisels words like marble, chipping away until the perfect image remains. This poet is Richard Cranshaw [1613-1649], a convert to Catholicism and son of a London Puritan preacher. His poem, On the Glorious Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, chronicles the "earthly" reactions to Mary's Assumption, where all of nature seems saddened by the disappearance of Our Lady:

"The shrill winds chide,
the waters weep Thy stay;
The fountains murmur;
and each loftiest tree bows
low'st his heavy top,
to look for Thee."

Further on, the poet, acting as a "spokesman" for mankind, makes a bold speech to Our Lady. In these verses, the indescribable worth of Mary's name is declared in words which may never have found their equal:

"Heav'n calls Her, and She must away.
Heav'n wills not, and She cannot stay.
Go then; go glorious.
On the golden wings
Of the bright youth of Heav'n,
That sings
Under so sweet a burden,
Go, since Thy dread Son will have it so.
And while Thou goest, our song and
Will, as we may, reach after Thee.
Hail, Holy Queen of humble hearts!
We in Thy praise will have our parts.
Thy precious Name shall be
Thy self to us; and we
With holy care will keep it by us.
We to the last
Will hold it fast
And no Assumption shall deny us.
All the sweetest show'res
Of our fairest flow'res
Will we strow upon it.
Though our sweets cannot make it sweeter,
They can take themselves
Maria, men and Angels sing
Maria, Mother of Our King."

As we reflect on and enjoy these various meditations and observations, recognizing how brightly burned the desire in souls of former times to honor Mary's blessed name, we can well imagine the voice of Our Lord saying to each and every one of us: "Go thou, and do likewise."

Reprinted from the October 2001 Issue of Catholic Family News.