Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary – September 12th
Today, September 12th, we celebrate the optional memorial of the Feast of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast was first instituted in order to celebrate the victory of the Christian forces over the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Vienna; however, it was removed from the calendar after the Second Vatican Council, but then reinstated by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002.
Knowing that He was choosing a name that would be invoked and honored for all eternity, God would have made certain that the name of His Son’s Mother was worthy of the honor that she bore. Yet, there is no shortage of opinions regarding what it means. In his book on Mary’s childhood, St. John Eudes offers 17 different interpretations, all taken from saints and the doctors of the Church based on different etymologies of the Aramaic or Hebrew name.
For instance, St. Isidore of Seville says that the name Mary means enlightener, “because She brought forth the Light of the world.” Others saints, starting with St. Jerome, have said that her name means “Star of the Sea,” regarding which St. Thomas Aquinas comments when writing about the Hail Mary: “It is surely fitting that her name is ‘Mary,’ which [means] the Star of the Sea (‘Maria – maris stella’), for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so also Christians are by Mary guided to glory.” Or, as St. Louis de Montfort says so beautifully in True Devotion, “God the Father gathered all the waters together and called them the seas or maria [Latin, seas]. He gathered all His grace together and called it Mary or Maria . . . This immense treasury is none other than Mary whom the Saints call the ‘treasury of the Lord.’ From Her fullness all men are made full.” Some say her name means, “Lady,” and so it is an honorific title, expressing her great majesty and dignity as Queen of Heaven and earth.
No matter what the name means, two things are certain: first, all these names express some aspect of Mary’s greatness and dignity. As St. Bonaventure sums up: “This most holy, sweet and worthy name was ‘eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men She is the Star of the sea; to the Angels She is illuminatrix, and to all creatures She is Lady.”
Likewise, all of these names, all of these maternal attributes, are meant for us, to aid us on our way to heaven. St. Maximilian Kolbe wrote “When you approach the time for reading about Mary Immaculate, always remember that you are entering into contact with a living, loving person.” Mary is one of us, fully human, and fully a mother. In fact, as St. Therese of Lisieux writes, Mary “is more a mother than a queen.”
Today, as we celebrate the Holy Name of our heavenly queen, let’s ask, through her intercession, for the grace to trust in her daily guidance, and to ask her aid at all moments, invoking her holy name, as St. Bernard tells us: “In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties . . . call upon Mary. Let not her name leave your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart.”