Today is an extremely important day for me. It’s my daughter Rachael’s 10th birthday. Double digits! Remember what a big deal that was when you were a kid? But that’s not the only special occasion I see inscribed on our calendar hanging in the laundry room. It also happens to be the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary.
I’ve been a Catholic for a little over two years now, but for some reason I don’t recall this feast day, so when I saw it approaching, I knew I needed to learn more about it.
To give you a little background, the Feast of the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary originated in Spain and was approved by the Holy See in 1513. In 1683, Pope Innocent XI extended the celebration of the feast day to the universal Church, to be celebrated on September 12th, four days after the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Mother. That seems fitting, considering the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus follows Christmas.
I like what New Advent says about this special day:
“We venerate the name of Mary because it belongs to her who is the Mother of God, the holiest of creatures, the Queen of heaven and earth, the Mother of Mercy. The object of the feast is the Holy Virgin bearing the name of Mirjam (Mary); the feast commemorates all the privileges given to Mary by God and all the graces we have received through her intercession and mediation.”
I cannot tell a lie. I feel as if I’ve only recently progressed beyond seeing Mary as a distant mother-in-law to viewing her as my spiritual mother. The reason being, for too many years she was nothing more to me than a figurine to be pulled out at Christmastime. So in human terms, it’s as if the mother I never knew, but had a picture of hidden in my drawer, suddenly appeared in my life and wanted to build a relationship. It’s been slow. Initially I feared that loving her somehow equated to worshiping her. I now see that notion as foolish. I love my children dearly, yet never once have I worried that my love for them would morph into worship of them, regardless of how sweet and adorable they may be…on most days.
What helped me open my heart to her? It wasn’t exactly the name of Mary, but a title of hers: Ark of the New Covenant. It sounds lofty. But, there are so many parallels between her and the Ark of the Old Covenant that one can’t deny the connection.
- When the ark in the OT was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
- The power of the Most High overshadowed Mary and she conceived Jesus.
- The Ark of the Covenant contained a golden jar holding manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.
- Mary, when expectant, contained the Bread of Life come down from heaven. She carried not the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood, but the true priest. And it was in her womb that she housed instead of stone tablets, the Word of God in flesh.
- In 2 Samuel, we read about a man named Uzzah who was struck dead when he touched the ark. David was afraid and said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” He left the ark in the hill country of Judea for three months. We are also told that David danced and leapt in front of the ark and everyone shouted for joy. The house of Obed-edom, which had housed the ark, was blessed, and then David took the ark to Jerusalem.
- When Mary heard that her cousin Elizabeth was with child she left for the hill country of Judea to visit her. When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Sound familiar?) Mary remained in Judea for 3 months, returned home, and eventually ended up in Jerusalem.
No one knows the whereabouts of the ark of the old covenant, but Catholics believe the ark of the NC is found in Heaven. In the book of Revelation, John writes, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.” And immediately afterwards we read, “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.” We believe that ark to be Mary.
And it was learning of these parallels – and there are others – that I began to see Mary throughout scripture and sensed her role in Christianity was far bigger than I had ever conceived as a Protestant. She wasn’t just some ordinary girl…with an ordinary name.
My birthday girl’s name is a biblical one that means female sheep. That’s certainly not what I envision, a ewe, as I see her name scrolled across her birthday cake. I think of the precious child of God that she is. Perfect (to me) in every way.
When I hear the name Mary, which one possible meaning is “loved by the Lord”, I think of that which is holy, pure and beautiful. Set apart. Also a child of God. Also perfect because of God.
The Bible tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What shall we do at the name of Mary? Reflect. Revere. And remember this feast day which is devoted to her sweet, yet extraordinary, name.
About Kim Tisor
Kim Tisor spent four decades as a Southern Baptist prior to converting to the Catholic faith in 2013, along with her husband, Randy. Her work in public relations and broadcasting spans more than twenty years, primarily working for the U.S. Army. Kim is grateful for her current season in life that allows her to be a stay-at-home mom to three, kind-hearted, beautiful children. In her spare time she blogs at Our Catholic Way, where she shares her journey into the Catholic Church. She also records a weekly podcast, interviewing other converts who recount their conversion stories.