A follower on Twitter recently asked me why the Blessed Virgin Mary has so many names and titles. She said it was confusing and seemed a bit overwhelming to keep up with it all. Can’t we just call her Mary and keep it simple?
The short answer is yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is indeed Mary. But to say she is simply Mary, well … it would inadvertently dismiss the splendor of what it means to be the Mother of God. It would fail to recognize the enormity of her fiat, her yes to God when He asked her to bear His Son, and the magnitude of that yes and all it would mean in the coming years of her life on earth and through the ages.
Mary’s titles are more than just endearments though it’s true we have many ways of addressing her that are intimate and deeply personal. As my devotion to her has grown, I have sometimes called her Mommy or Mama in the way a child would call for her mommy. Why not? She is, after all, a mother to us all. I have called on her especially during my own times of need, asking her to be a mother to me in those circumstances.
In addition to this personal relationship, we also have a shared relationship with the Blessed Mother (see how I slipped in a different title?) Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Daughter of God the Father. She is also our mother and watches over us tenderly.
In fact, the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to her children throughout the world at various times. She comes to give us hope in times of turmoil, so we call her Mother of Hope. Consider her appearance at Tepeyac Hill to St. Juan Diego. She spoke to him in his native language and exhorted him to speak to the bishop in order to have a church built on that site. The site was originally a venerated spot for the pagan Aztec religion. Mary’s appearance there is credited with the conversion of six million souls. Her words to soothe Diego’s fear, “Am I not here with you who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?” console all of us.
We honor the Blessed Virgin Mary with these titles because they speak to us in whatever need we have, or help us identify her in the capacity in which she revealed herself. For example, when she appeared to St. James when he was preaching in the Iberian Peninsula, she stood on a pillar. Today, she is venerated in that region of Spain as Our Lady of the Pillar. It reminds the faithful that in St. James’ time of need, she was present, and her presence can be counted upon by those who seek her intercession.
I’ve recently been drawn to Mary under the title of Undoer of Knots. I have embraced this devotion especially in this Year of Mercy. Under this title, we understand that the knot created by Eve through her sin is loosened by Mary through her yes to God’s plan for her to bear Christ into the world. It is beautiful to ponder how my sins and all the things that often tie me up in knots are released through the mercy of her son, Jesus Christ.
While it’s true, as William Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” the multitude of names we use for the Blessed Mother inform us and inspire us because she is the same Mary in all circumstances – sweet, loving, truly the Mother of Mercy. When we are drawn to Mary under any of her titles, we can be assured that in her love and motherly influence she will guide us to her son.
Copyright 2016 Maria Morera Johnson