Today the Church celebrates the Holy Name of Mary, yet another Marian feast day. At times it might seem that the Church goes overboard with all these days dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After all, the memorial of the Holy Name of Mary is only an optional memorial. Why even celebrate these little Marian feast days? Don’t the great Marian feasts like the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception provide sufficient Marian devotion in the liturgy?
Before you accuse me of being impious, let me affirm that there’s a lesson we can learn in celebrating the little days of Mary, which can teach us something about prayer and the forthright nature of Mary’s intercession for us.
Partaking in the minor Marian feasts throughout the year is much like the repeated utterances of the Hail Mary. Many of us pray multiple Hail Marys each day, sometimes with more or less attention and devotion. If we resort to simply rattling off the words of the Hail Mary, only paying attention on occasion to the mysteries latent beneath the prayer, we lose focus of its true purpose: orienting us to God through Mary’s mediation. Like the one Hail Mary amidst dozens, if we gloss over these other Marian feast days with little attention we can miss out on the unique mediating way the Blessed Virgin Mary wishes to bring us directly to her Son.
It is the directness of Mary’s mediation that is highlighted on this optional day. Giving veneration to the Name of Mary is simple; it is a direct and straightforward invocation of the Name of the Mother of God. A powerful name, indeed! The candor of this devotion mirrors exactly how Mary intercedes for us. Recall the Wedding Feast at Cana: “they have no wine.” Without any flowery language or lofty introduction to her Divine Son, Mary cuts to the chase. Punctured by Veritas, she goes to the heart of the matter, to what is most pressing and in need of remedy, and she gets the job done.
To translate Mary’s intercession into our daily struggles and needs can take on a variety of forms: “My marriage is in shambles!” “Why can’t I be merciful?” “My sin controls me!” “Why does mom have to suffer like that?,” “Why is my family dysfunctional?” “I’m lonely!” “Why can’t I find work?” “Why do I feel unworthy of love?” etc. The Holy Name of Mary aids us in being immediate and direct in prayer. Prayer is not so much reading the back of a holy card as it is an honest and real lifting of the heart to God above. We don’t need eloquent sentences but genuine hearts. With the simple and direct invocation of the Name of Mary, we are able to bring the simple and direct invocation of our most distressing needs to Jesus.
So we come to another Marian feast day. Not just a day to skip over as a minor celebration but an opportunity to go to Jesus with confidence in the straightforward Name of Mary. Perhaps, that is the point of all the minor Marian feast days, and this one in particular. The Church in her wisdom punctures the liturgical year with the Veritas of Mary’s intercession. It’s a wonderful gift and offer of grace, not just another day.
Image: Igor Stoyanov, Icon of the Wedding Feast at Cana