Meditation of St Bernard of Clairvaux on the Name of Mary


On the Solemnity of the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel to Our Lady that she has conceived the Word of God within her and the great mystery of Christ’s incarnation is begun for us, earlier this year, the people of Ireland were consecrated to the protection of God’s Mother. Let each of us take time, today, to join one another in a solidarity and communion of prayer in a time of great struggle, to pray St Bernard’s beautiful meditation on the Name of Mary:


‘And the Virgin’s name was Mary…’

St Bernard of clairvaux

Let us now say a few words about this name, which means ‘star of the sea’, and is so becoming to the Virgin Mother.  Surely she is very fittingly likened to a star. The star sends forth its rays without harm to itself. In the same way the Virgin brought forth her son with no injury to herself. The ray no more diminishes the star’s brightness than does the Son his mother’s integrity. She indeed is that noble star risen out of Jacob whose beam enlightens the earthly globe. She it is whose brightness both twinkles in the highest heaven and pierces the pit of hell, and is shed upon the earth, warming our hearts far more than our bodies, fostering virtue and cauterizing vice. She, I tell you, is that splendid and wondrous star suspended as by necessity over this great wide sea, radiant with merit and brilliant in example.

O you, whoever you are, who feel that in the tidal wave of this world you are nearer to being tossed about among the squalls and gales than treading on dry land, if you do not want to founder in the tempest, do not avert your eyes from the brightness of this star.  When the wind of temptation blows up within you, when you strike upon the rock of tribulation, gaze up at this star, call out to Mary. Whether you are being tossed about by the waves of pride or ambition or slander or jealousy, call out to Mary.  When rage or greed or fleshly desires are battering the skiff of your soul, gaze up at Mary. When the immensity of your sins weighs you down and you are bewildered by the loathsomeness of your conscience, when the terrifying thought of judgement appalls you and you begin to founder in the gulf of sadness and despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in hardships, in every doubt, think of Mary, call out to Mary.

Keep her in your mouth, keep her in your heart. Follow the example of her life and you will obtain the favour of her prayer. Following her you will never go astray. Asking her help, you will never despair.  Keeping her in your thoughts, you will never wander away. With your hand in hers, you will never stumble. With her protecting you, you will not be afraid. With her leading you, you will never tire. Her kindness will see you through to the end.

Then you will know by your own experience how true it is that ‘the Virgin’s name was Mary’.


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