Saint Ephrem on the Mystic Names of Mary

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It is not surprising that Our Blessed Lady, the Mother of God, has inspired countless litanies and akathists. The mystery of Mary, or what Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort calls "The Secret of Mary," is inexhaustible. Would that preachers knew how to preach the mystery of Mary in the language of the Fathers!

In 1863 Father Faber wrote in the brilliant preface of his English translation of "True Devotion:

Mary is not half enough preached. Devotion to her is low and thin and poor. It is frightened out of its wits by the sneers of heresy. It is always invoking human respect and carnal prudence, wishing to make Mary so little of a Mary that Protestants may feel at ease about her. Its ignorance of theology makes it unsubstantial and unworthy. It is not the prominent characteristic of our religion which it ought to be. It has no faith in itself. Hence it is that Jesus is not loved, that heretics are not converted, that the Church is not exalted; that souls, which might be saints, wither and dwindle; that the Sacraments are not rightly frequented, or souls enthusiastically evangelised.
Jesus is obscured because Mary is kept in the background. Thousands of souls perish because Mary is withheld from them. It is the miserable unworthy shadow which we call our devotion to the Blessed Virgin that is the cause of all these wants and blights, these evils and omissions and declines. Yet, if we are to believe the revelations of the Saints, God is pressing for a greater, a wider, a stronger, quite another devotion to His Blessed Mother. . . .

This morning at Vigils, there was this magnificent Marian sermon of Saint Ephrem. The translation is my own:

Temple
One can most appropriately attribute to Mary various names. She herself is the temple of the Son of God, who came forth from her in a natural condition that was truly different from the one He had when He entered into her. When he introduced Himself into her womb, He was without a body; He came forth from her clothed in a body.
New Heaven
Mary herself is the mystical new heaven in which the King of Kings dwelt as upon His throne. and from which He descended to the earth, bearing the aspect and resemblance of our earthly condition.
Fruitful Vine Exhaling a Sweet Fragrance
Mary herself is the fruitful vine exhaling its sweet fragrance; the fruit thereof, being of an entirely different nature, had to borrow His resemblance from the plant.
Wellspring
Mary herself is the wellspring that gushes out of the House of the Lord, the wellspring from which, for those who thirst, flow living waters. The one who will have tasted of it, or even there moistened his lips, will never thirst again.
Life Through Mary
But he is mistaken, the one who judges the day of our renewal comparable to that our first creation. In the beginning, in fact, the earth was created; today, the earth is renewed. In the beginning, because of Adam's sin, the earth was cursed in its production; but today the earth has truly recovered peace and security. In the beginning, because of the sin of our first parents, death made its way among men; but today, through Mary, we have passed over from death to life.
Mary Listens
In the beginning, the serpent occupied the ears of Eve, and from there, his poison spread throughout the body. Today, Mary, having lent her ear to the Messenger, has received the pledge of eternal happiness. Thus, the ear that was the instrument of death, has become, at the same time, the instrument of life.

3 Comments

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Thank you for this ! This part struck me most:

She herself is the temple of the Son of God, who came forth from her in a natural condition that was truly different from the one He had when He entered into her. When he introduced Himself into her womb, He was without a body; He came forth from her clothed in a body.
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Here is my comment:
One day looking at Jesus in The Blessed Sacrament, (which is The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Himself); it came to me that this Body of Christ is also, in a sense...(the flesh and blood part),the body of Mary, because it is her flesh that He took on. He has her DNA. And this would attest to the fact that she is truly and tangibly Mother of The Mystical Body of Christ! And we are physically (in the mystical sense) her real flesh and blood children! What a happy thought!

I know this may sound shocking, and I was afraid of the thought at first, but the more I think about it now after reading the above paragraph, the more sense it makes. All it is really saying is that Mary is always with her Son; wherever His Body is, she is too, by the Laws of Creation. It is not saying that Mary is in and of herself divine that is not how I was getting it, just to make that clear.


Thank you for sharing your gift with The Body of Christ here, Father,
mg
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Greeting Mary Grace and thank YOU for your insightful comment. Indeed a happy thought!

I sometimes wonder if the thoughts I have are "theologically correct" according to the teachings of the Church. (Although I am from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I believe our teachings are very close to those of the Catholic Church.)

I was struck how much I associated with St. Ephrem's statement: "Mary is not half enough preached. Devotion to her is low and thin and poor. It is frightened out of its wits by the sneers of heresy.

"...It is frightened out of its wits by the sneers of heresy."

Well, I often have this fear. I ask myself, "will I distort the message?" "Will I insult the Faith with my lack of understanding?"

Not too many years ago I asked my own priest about this. Let's face it, some of the theology becomes complex and I can see how well-intentioned seekers can veer off course! I was thankfully reassured that the Church is not interested in punishing its members for seeking the Truth. ;-) Rather, it desires to educate and enlighten us. Of course, it is then up to the individual to open their heart (and mind) to the Church's position.

I find St. Ephrem's message to be so beautiful. I personally already have an unabashed love and dedication to Mary, but St. Ephrem has inspired me to push further in my understanding of her, as well as devote more contemplative and prayerful time to her in my daily life.

Blessings to all,
Elisa

Thank you for the translation of the Marian sermon of Saint Ephrem. The part that speaks to me the most is Mary as the wellspring from whom gushes living water. Would you please provide the reference for the original text?

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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