In the Divine Praises, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the faithful sing:
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy.
Blessed be her holy and immaculate conception.
Blessed be her glorious assumption.
Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.
FATHER JOHN JOSEPH FENELON explains why we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
This feast is celebrated on Sept 12 as an optional memorial in the Church liturgical calendar.
It was instituted in Spain in the 15th century, when the invocation of the name of our Blessed Mother won many victories in battle. By the 17th century, Pope Innocent XI had extended this feast to the entire Church. It was removed from the Church calendar after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s but restored by Pope St John Paul in 2002, together with the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Catholics have long honoured and revered the Blessed Virgin Mary, and devotions to icons of the Theotokos (Mother of God) are common in Eastern Orthodox Churches. Here are 5 reasons why we too should not break with Tradition:
- Mary was part of God’s plan from the beginning
The Book of Genesis tells how Adam and Eve fell into original sin after being tempted by Satan, in the form of a serpent. “And the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
In the Old Testament, Eve was tempted by Satan, a fallen angel, to disobey the command of God, whereas in the New Testament, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God had chosen her be the Mother of Christ the redeemer, she humbly obeyed. Just as Eve cooperated with Adam in the fall of mankind, the Virgin Mary cooperated with Jesus Christ in our redemption.
At wedding at Cana, when Mary pointed out: “‘They have no wine,’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.’” (John 2:3-4). And at the foot of the cross, Jesus said, to Mary, “Woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26) With his first public miracle at the beginning of his ministry, and his crucifixion at its end, Jesus called his mother “woman” to show that she was indeed the fulfilment of the Genesis prophecy.
“If you invoke the Blessed Virgin when you are tempted, she will come at once to your help, and Satan will leave you.” (St. John Vianney)
- God wants us to honour his mother as ours
At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus… the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (Luke 1:30-31,35)
Furthermore, when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” praised her younger kinswoman, exclaiming, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:42-43)
And at the cross, Jesus told St John, on behalf of all of us as his beloved disciples: “Here is your mother.” (John 19:27) We obey God, as Mary did, by obeying Christ’s dying words and we honour her when, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wonder, we too ask: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?”
- When we honour Mary, we honour God
Catholics do not worship the Virgin Mary because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one and only mediator between us and the Father.
We revere Mother Mary simply because, as St Louis Marie de Montfort, observed, “We never give more honour to Jesus than when we honour his Mother, and we honour her simply and solely to honour him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son.”
St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori taught: “After the love which we owe Jesus Christ, we must give the chief place in our heart to the love of his Mother Mary.”
And St Maximilian Kolbe said, “Jesus honoured her before all ages, and will honour her for all ages. No one comes to him, nor even near him, no one is saved or sanctified, if he too will not honour her. This is the lot of angels and of men.”
- God hears Mary when she intercedes for us
St Alphonsus Liguori wrote: “Mary, having cooperated in our redemption with so much glory to God and so much love for us, Our Lord ordained that no one should obtain salvation except through her intercession.” She, who stood at the foot of the cross of her Son as Our Lady of Sorrows, will stand by our side as we face our crosses too.
We often ask our imperfect fellow brothers and sisters to pray for us; how much more powerful are the prayers of Mary, Jesus’ own perfect mother, who is also our mother and loves us dearly! The saints assure that, if we do ask Our Lady to pray for us, we will not be disappointed.
St Josemaria Escriva exhorts: “When all the sins of your life seem to be rising up against you, don’t give up hope! On the contrary, call upon your holy Mother Mary with the faith and abandonment of a child. She will bring peace to your soul.”
And St Teresa of Kolkata assures us: “If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon our Lady; just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’ I must admit, this prayer has never failed me.”
- Our salvation depends on the most holy name of Mary
St Louis Marie de Montfort believed that “the salvation of each individual is bound up with the Hail Mary,” the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation. This prayer, which speaks the holy name of the Mother of God, “brought to a dry and barren world the fruit of Life: it will cause the Word of God to take root in our souls and bring forth Jesus.” That is why Catholics have always had a great devotion to the rosary which incorporates the Hail Mary and invokes the holy name of Mary twenty times each decade.
We honour and revere Mary’s holy name because she is so close to the Paschal mystery of the death, resurrection and ascension of her Son Jesus. Today, the liturgical Marian chants of our Blessed Mother sung at the end of Mass throughout the centuries sum up why we love and revere Our Lady so much:
Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen) in Ordinary Time
Alma Redemptoris Mater (Loving Mother of Our Saviour) during Advent and Christmastide
Ave Regina Caelorum (Hail, Queen of Heaven) during Lent
Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven) at Easter
So, in conclusion, let us, as members of Christ’s One, true Church, fulfil the prophecy made by Mary during her visit to Elizabeth: “Behold henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Fr J J Fenelon is the Assistant Parish Priest of the Church of St Vincent de Paul