Monday, September 11, 2006

The Holy Name of Mary

September 12 is the memorial of the Holy Name of Mary. Although this remembrance has been dropped from the universal Roman calendar, it remains an important celebration in many particular churches and religious institutes, and many continue to observe it even where it is not included in the official Church calendar. In any case, tomorrow is a ferial day so it is possible for all to use the Votive Mass of the Holy Name of Mary from the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin from which the Collect included here is taken.

Miriam was such an ordinary Hebrew name of no particular significance, except that it was the name of Moses' sister who led in the singing after the crossing of the Red Sea. Nobody would have found much promise in a girl with such an ordinary name.

At one point, Mary's name was even a dishonored name because she was found to be with child before she joined Joseph under one roof. In the Matthean genealogy of Jesus, Mary's name is parallel to those of the other women in the line, all of them sexually suspect. Her honor and reputation could have remained ruined forever.

But now, it is a name we call blessed and revere with singular respect and devotion. It is a name that is powerful with God, through which we obtain many graces and blessings, and find sweetness and consolation in this valley of tears.

Mary's name became special because of her special relationship with God, who looked upon her in her lowliness out of his tender mercy. With her Fiat, she surrendered to God the right of defining her name "according to his word". Mary's name became powerful because of the power of the name of Jesus. Children will otherwise be known in reference to their parents. But Mary will always be known as the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God. And so we honor her for the love we bear her Son and God always listens to her prayers because of his love for Jesus who loves her so much.

The name of Mary bears witness to the mercy of God and the glory of Christ. "He has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his Name." It is only because of God's mercy that her name, otherwise an ordinary name just like any other, was greatly exalted.

And it was exalted for all humanity so that we, her children, may find consolation and hope in her holy Name. When we call on her for help and protection, we are sure of relief. She is the promise of what our names will be in heaven-no longer fragile and vulnerable identities-but names strongly and securely founded on God's loving mercy.

As we celebrate the name of Mary, and call with great confidence and love on our Mother, let us ask her to place us with her Son so that we too may give ever greater glory to God.


Lord our God,
when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross,
he gave us as our mother
the one he has chosen to be his own mother,
the Blessed Virgin Mary;
grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother,
with confidence in her protection
may receive strength and comfort in all our needs.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Let us also pray for Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo whose Liturgical Reception as auxiliary bishop of Manila is also on September 12.

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