The Most Holy Name of Mary

Star of the Sea - Ceiling Mural in SF Church of Same Name

September 12th is the celebration of the Most Holy Name of Mary, Mother of God. It is a day to contemplate the blessed name via prayers in the form of litanies, chants and song. The feast day originated in Spain in 1513 and the official date was moved various times until settled at its present liturgical date in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

The name Mary comes from these ancient names: in Hebrew “Myriam” and in Aramaic “Maryam”. According to themeaningofthename.com, the Hebrew name has a meaning of “bitterness” (myrrh), but also can connote “Our Lady” and “Beloved Lady” which are more consistent with the veneration of the Holy Name of Mary. Another meaning of the name ascribed to Saint Jerome is “Stella Maris” or “Star of the Sea” which is a common invocation of the Blessed Mother.

Further insight on the symbolism of the Holy Name of Mary is available at this post by Philip Kosloski at https://aleteia.org/2020/09/12/what-was-the-virgin-marys-real-name/ who writes, in part:

Some biblical scholars have seen in it (symbolism) the Hebrew words mar (bitter) and yam (sea). This first meaning can refer to Mary’s bitter suffering at the cross and her many tears of sorrow.

Another interpretation of the word mar renders Mary’s name to mean “drop of the sea” and St. Jerome rendered it in Latin as stilla maris, which was later changed to stella (star) maris. This accounts for a popular title for Mary as “Star of the Sea.”

St. Bonaventure took many of these meanings and combined their symbolism, giving each one its own spiritual meaning.

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 [as] 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.

In any event, the most beautiful and most Holy Name of Mary is worthy of veneration and contemplation. The reasons for veneration of the name of Mary center on her title as Mother of God, the holiest and most privileged of all humans; as no other person has been entrusted with, or entitled to, these honors.

Mary in Scripture
The name of Mary, in reference to the Blessed Mother (as opposed to the other “Mary’s” in the Bible such as Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas, etc.), is mentioned in over 130 verses of the Bible per the website maryimaculate.tripod.com. Nearly all of the references occur in the New Testament mostly associated with the birth of Jesus, but others occur later including, the wedding at Cana (John 2:1), Mary at the foot of the cross (John 19:25) and Mary in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14). Mary’s name is also included twice in the frequently recited traditional prayer of “Hail Mary” which is partly based on Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46) on her visit to Saint Elizabeth.

Memorable Quotations of Saints associated with Mary
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “O most holy Virgin Mary, your name is so sweet and admirable that one cannot say it without becoming inflamed with love toward God and You.”
Saint Alphonsus Mary Liguori: “Mary was the most perfect among the saints only because she was always perfectly united to the will of God”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe: “Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God’s heart.”
Saint Louis de Montfort: “Have you strayed from the path leading to heaven? Then call on Mary, for her name means ‘Star of the Sea, the North Star which guides the ships of our souls during the voyage of this life,’ and she will guide you to the harbor of eternal salvation.”

A privilege to recite the name of Mary
Just as Our Mother was privileged in her part of the Incarnation and ongoing Redemption, we too are fortunate to say her name in silence or aloud. One of the oldest approaches to prayer is via chanting which is commonly used in monasteries. This approach can be used with recitation of a litany which by definition (from dictionary.com) is a ceremonial or liturgical form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations or supplications with responses that are the same for a number in succession.

On this Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, one can chant or pray the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary which can be found here on churchwonders.com at https://churchwonders.com/devotions/litanies/the-litany-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/

2 comments

    1. Your are so correct! Our Lady is most Beloved and her Name Most Holy.

      Thank you for your comments for which I updated my post to incorporate some further insight on the sacred symbolism which I read on the informative site aleteia.org.

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