Sept 12, 2020
Most Holy Name of Mary
What’s in a Name
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.
And I will give him a white stone,
and on the stone a new name written
which no one knows except him who receives it.
God “knew” (there is no past in Him) our name, who we would be, what we are to be, how we are to be recreated in the image of the Son. In a sense, we are given our name and must discover our name – that is, who we are to be. Think of Francis in the house of his father; then, in the House of the Father of Majesty Unbounded. Or, Francis who as a young man fantastically patched his clothing for flair and effect; and Francis who endlessly patched his worn habits. The grace to be remade in Jesus Christ was planted in baptism, a seed to flower that has made Francis a household name.
The grace of renewal was planted in Mary at her conception, making her Immaculate and ever disposed to flower in God’s grace. The angel Gabriel greets the young Mary, who in turn is perplexed by his words: “Hail, full of grace. Rejoice! You who have been transformed by God’s grace” (Lk 1:28). The angel points to the Immaculate Conception, to what God has prepared in her that she might be able to receive this Divine Gift, Jesus Christ. The seed of immaculate grace was planted in silence as in the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5). Said first to Jeremiah, this Divine affirmation is perfectly fulfilled in Mary and her Divine Son Jesus, and in them, said of all of us.
Mary is perplexed as never thought about herself in the fallen ways that we do. We tend, in our fallenness, to exult ourselves, to puff ourselves up for little things. Saint Francis points to this in his Admonitions (which are little sayings of inspiration to conversion written down for us to grow):
Blessed is that servant who does not pride himself on the good that the Lord says or does through him any more than on what he says or does through another. That person sins who wishes to receive more from his neighbor then what he is willing to give of himself to the Lord God. (Adm 17)
Often we are very proud when we accomplish a simple thing, or even a difficult one, like being patient with the grouch at work all day, only to become irritated with the children or spouse at home. Virtue is hard, right? We want to receive a big reward, that we be treated lavishly. How often we look for affirmation and thanks for the little things. Mary, on the other hand, even in the Magnificat refers everything to God. She does not ask to be served, but serves her cousin Elizabeth in her need.
All authentic love calls for a response; Divine Love draws forth a response, always with respect for our freedom. When Saint Francis heard the Gospel preached at the Portiuncula, calling him to live the evangelical life in total poverty, he exclaimed, “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart” (ICel 22). Our Lady joyfully responded to the invitation to be the Mother of the Son of God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
The grace to perform the good deeds or words of the Lord requires, of divine necessity, a humble and joyful assent. When the Virgin Mary gave her fiat, she did not know the future beyond that the promises announced would be fulfilled in the Child: He will be great, the Son of God, and receive the throne of David. Like Mary we do not know the Cross that will be set before us. What we do know is that God knows our name and leads us into this Promise which is eternal.
Fr. Paschal Mary, MFVA
[Cover Image: Detail of painting of the Annunciation found in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, Assisi]