O dulcis Virgo Maria.
O SWEET VIRGIN MARY.
Sweetness of the Name of Mary during Life and at Death.
The great name of Mary, which was given to the divine Mother, did not come
to her from her parents, nor was it given to her by the mind or will of
man, as is the case with all other names that are imposed in this world;
but it came from heaven, and was given her by a divine ordinance. This is
attested by St. Jerome (De Nat. M. V.),
St. Epiphanius (Or. de Praes. Deip.),
St. Antoninus (Hist. p. 1, t. 4, c.
6, #10), and others. "The name of Mary came from the treasury of
the divinity" ("De thesauro Divinitatis,
Mariae nomen evolvitur"S. de Annunt.), says St. Peter
Damian. Ah, yes, O Mary, it was from that treasury that thy high and
admirable name came forth; for the most Blessed Trinity, says Richard of
St. Laurence, bestowed on thee a name above every other name after that of
thy Son, and ennobled it with such majesty and power, that he willed that
all heaven, earth, and hell, on only hearing it, should fall down and
venerate it; but I will give the author's own words: "The whole Trinity, O
Mary, gave thee a name after that of thy Son above every other name, that
in thy name every knee should bow, of things in heaven, on earth, and
under the earth" ("Dedit tibi, Maria, tota
Trinitas nomen quod est super omne nomen, post nomen Filii sui, ut in
nominee ejus omne genu flectatur coelestium, terrestrium, et infernorum"De
Laud. B. M. l. 1, c. 2). But amongst the other privileges of
the name of Mary, and which were given to it by God, we will now examine
that of the peculiar sweetness found in it by the servants of this most
holy Lady during life and in death.
And in the first place, speaking of the course of our life,
the holy anchorite Honorius used to say, that "this name of Mary if filled
with every sweetness and divine savor"
("Hoc nomen Mariae plenum est omni dulcedine suavitate divina"Ap. Lyr.
Tris. Mar l. 2, m. 13); so much so, that the glorious St.
Anthony of Padua found the same sweetness in the name of Mary that St.
Bernard found in that of Jesus. "Name of Jesus!" exclaimed the one. "O
name of Mary!" replied the other; "joy in the heart, honey in the mouth,
melody to the ear of her devout clients"
("Jubilus in corde, mel in ore, melos in aure"Dom. 3 Quadr.
s. 2). It is narrated in the life of the Ven. Father Juvenal
Ancina, Bishop of Saluzzo, that in pronouncing the name of Mary he tasted
so great and sensible a sweetness, that, after doing so, he licked his
lips. We read also that a lady at Cologne told the Bishop Massilius, that
as often as she uttered the name of Mary she experienced a taste far
sweeter than honey. The Bishop imitated her, and experienced the same
thing" (Casarius, Dial. l. 7, c.
We gather from the sacred canticles, that on the Assumption of
our Blessed Lady, the angels asked her name three times. Who is she that
goeth up by the desert as a pillar of smoke?
("Quae est ista, quae ascendit per
desertum, sicut virgula fumi?"Cant. iii. 6) again, Who is
she that cometh forth as the morning rising?
("Quae est ista, quae progreditur quasi
aurora consurgens?"Ib. vi. 9) and again, Who is this that
cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights?
("Quae est ista, quae ascendit de deserto,
deliciis affluens?"Ib. viii. 5) "And why," says Richard of
St. Laurence, "do the angels so often ask the name of their Queen?" He
answers, "That it was so sweet even to the angels to hear it pronounced,
that they desired to hear that sweet name in reply"
("Forsitan quia dulce nomen sibi
desiderant responderi"De Laud. V. M. l. 1, c. 2).
But here I do not intend to speak of that sensible sweetness,
for it is not granted to all; I speak of that salutary sweetness of
consolation, of love, of joy, of confidence, of strength, which the name
of Mary ordinarily brings to those who pronounce it with devotion.
The Abbot Francone, speaking on this subject, says, "there is
no other name after that of the Son, in heaven or on earth, whence pious
minds derive so much grace, hope, and sweetness"
("Neque enim, post Filii sui nomen, aliud
nomen coelum aut terra nominat, unde tantum gratiae, tantum spei, tantum
suavitatis, piae mentes concipiant"). After the most sacred name
of Jesus, the name of Mary is so rich in every good thing, that on earth
and in heaven there is no other from which devout souls receive so much
grace, hope, and sweetness. "For," he continues, "there is something so
admirable, sweet, and divine in this name of Mary, that when it meets with
friendly hearts it breathes into them an odor of delightful sweetness."
And he adds, in conclusion, "that the wonder of this great name is, that
if heard by the lovers of Mary a thousand times, it is always heard again
with renewed pleasure, for they always experience the same sweetness each
time it is pronounced" ("Nomen namque
Mariae, mirum quid, suave, ac divinum, in se continent, ut, cum sonuerit
amicis cordibus, amicae suavitatis odorem spiret. Et mirum illud est de
nominee Mariae, ut, millies auditum, simper audiatur quasi novem"De
Grat. D. l. 6).
The Blessed Henry Suso (Dial.
c. 16), also speaking of this sweetness, says, "that when he named
Mary, he felt himself so excited to confidence, and inflamed with such
love and joy with which he pronounced the beloved name, he desired that
his heart might leave his breast; for he declared that this most sweet
name was like a honeycomb dissolving in the inmost recess of the soul;"
and then he would exclaim: "O most sweet name! O Mary, what must thou
thyself be, since thy name alone is thus amiable and gracious!"
The enamoured St. Bernard, raising his heart to his good
Mother, says with tenderness, "O great! O pious! O thou who art worthy of
all praise! O most Holy Virgin Mary! Thy name is so sweet and amiable,
that it cannot be pronounced without inflaming those who do so with love
towards thee and God. It only need occur to the thought of thy lovers to
move them to love thee more, and to console them." "Thou canst not be
named without inflaming; thou canst not be thought of by those who love
thee without filling their minds with joy"
("O magna, O pia, O multum amabilis Mari! tu nec nominari potes, quin
accendas, nec cogitari, quin recrees affectus diligentium te"Depr. Gl.
V). "And if riches comfort the poor, because they relieve them
in their distress, O how much more does thy name, O Mary," says Richard of
St. Laurence, "comfort us than any earthly riches! It comforts us in the
anguishes of this life." "Thy name, O Mary, is far better than riches,
because it can better relieve poverty" ("Mariae
nomen longe melius quam divitiae, quia melius angustiam relevant"De
Laud. B. M. l. 1, c. 2).
In fine, "thy name, O Mother of God, is filled with divine
graces and blessings" ("Tuum, Dei genitrix,
nomen divinis benedictionibus et gratis ex omni parte refertum"De Sim.
et Anna), as St. Methodius says. So much so, that St.
Bonaventure declares, "that thy name, O Mary, cannot be pronounced without
bringing some grace to him who does so devoutly"
("Nomen tuum devote nominari non potest
sine nominantis utilitate"Spec. B. V. lect. 9). The
Blessed Raymond Jordano says, "that however hardened and diffident a heart
may be, the name of this most Blessed Virgin has such efficacy, that if it
is only pronounced, that heart will be wonderfully softened." I will,
however, give his own words. "The power of thy most holy name, O
ever-blessed Virgin Mary, is such that it softens the hardness of the
human heart in a wonderful manner." He then tells us that it is she who
leads sinners to the hope of pardon and grace: "By thee does the sinner
recover the hope of forgiveness and grace"
("Tanta est virtus tui sacratissimi nominis, O simper benedicta Virgo
Maria! quod mirabiliter emollit duritiam cordis humani; peccator per te
respirat in spe veniae ei gratiae"Cont. de V. M. c. 5).
Thy most sweet name, O Mary, according to St. Ambrose, "is a
precious ointment, which breathes forth the odor of divine grace." The
saint then prays to the divine Mother, saying: "Let this ointment of
salvation enter the inmost recesses of our souls"
("Unguentum, nomen tuum; descendat istud
unguentum in animae praecordia. Sancta Maria, quod divina gratiae
spiramenta redolet"Instit. Virg. c. 13): that is, grant, O
Lady, that we may often remember to name thee with love and confidence;
for this practice either shows the possession of divine grace, or else is
a pledge that we shall soon recover it. "And truly it is so, O Mary; for
the remembrance of thy name comforts the afflicted, recalls those who have
erred to the way of salvation, and encourages sinners, that they may not
abandon themselves to despair." It is thus that Ludolph of Saxony
addresses her ("O Mariae! Tui recordation
nominis, moestos laetificat, errantes ad viam salutis revocat et
peccatores, ne desperent, confortat"Vita Chr. p. 2, c. 86).
Father Pelbart says, "that as Jesus Christ by his five wounds
gave a remedy for the evils of the world, so also does Mary, by her most
holy name which is composed of five letters, daily bring pardon to
sinners" ("Sic Maria, suo sanctissimo
nominee, quod quinque litteris constat, confert quotidie veniam
peccatoribus"Stell. l. 6, p. 1, a. 2).
For this reason is the holy name of Mary likened in the sacred
canticles to oil: Thy name is as oil poured out
("Oleum effusum, nomen tuum"Off. B. V.
resp. 6). On these words blessed Alan says that the glory of
her name is compared to oil poured out; because oil heals the sick, sends
out a sweet odor, and nourishes flames
("Gloria nominis ejus oleo effuso comparator; oleum aegrotantem sanat,
odorem parit, flammam nutrit"In Cant. i). Thus also does
the name of Mary heal sinners, rejoice hearts, and inflame them with
divine love. Hence Richard of St. Laurence "encourages sinners to have
recourse to this great name," because it alone will suffice to cure them
of all their evils; and "there is so disorder, however malignant, that
does not immediately yield to the power of the name of Mary"
("Peccator es, ad Mariae nomen confugias.
Ipsum solum sufficit ad medendum: nam pestis tam efficax nulla sic haeret,
quae ad nomen Mariae non cedat continuoDe Laud. Virg. lib. i. cap.
On the other hand, Thomas ΰ Kempis affirms "that the devils
fear the Queen of heaven to such a degree, that only on hearing her great
name pronounced, they fly from him who does so as from a burning fire"
("Expavescunt coeli Reginam spiritus
maligni, et diffugiunt, audito nominee ejus, velut ab igne"Ad Nov.
s. 23). The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget "that
there is not on earth a sinner, however devoid he may be of the love of
God, from whom the devil is not obliged immediately to fly, if he invokes
her holy name with a determination to repent"
("Nullus tam frigidus ab amore Dei est,
nisi sit damnatus, si invocaverit hoc nomen, hac intentione, ut nunquam
reverti velit ad opus solitum, quod non discedat ab eo statim diabolus").
On another occasion she repeated the same thing to the saint, saying,
"that all the devils venerate and fear her name to such a degree, that on
hearing it they immediately loosen the claws with which they hold the soul
captive" ("Omnes daemons verentur hoc
nomen et timent; qui audientes hoc nomen, Maria, statim relinquunt animam
de unguibus, quibus tenebant eam"). Our Blessed Lady also told St.
Bridget, "that is the same way as the rebel angels fly from sinners who
invoke the name of Mary, so also do the good angels approach nearer to
just souls who pronounce her name with devotion"
("Angeli boni, audito hoc nominee, statim
appropinquant magis justis"Rev. l. 1, c. 9).
St. Germanus declares, "that as breathing is a sign of life,
so also is the frequent pronunciation of the name of Mary a sign either of
the life of divine grace, or that it will soon come; for this powerful
name has in it the virtue of obtaining help and life for him who invokes
it devoutly." Addressing the Blessed Virgin, he says,, "As breathing is a
sign of life in the body, so is the frequent repetition of thy most holy
name, O Virgin, by thy servants, not only a sign of life and of strength,
but also it procures and conciliates both"
("Quomodo corpus vitalis signum operationis habet respirationem, ita etiam
sanctissimum nomen tuum, O Virgo! quod in ore servorum tuorum versatur
assidue, vitae et auxilii non solum signum est, sed etiam ea procurat et
conciliat"De Zona Deip).
In fine, "This admirable name of our Sovereign Lady," says
Richard of St. Laurence, "is like a fortified tower, in which, if a sinner
takes refuge, he will be delivered from death; for it depends and saves
even the most abandoned" ("Turris fortissimo, nomen Dominae: ad ipsam
fugiet peccator et liberabitur; haec defendit quosilibet et quantumlibet
peccatores"). But it is a tower of strength, which not only delivers
sinners from chastisement, but also defends the just from the assaults of
hell. Thus the same Richard says, "that after the name of Jesus, there is
no other in which men find so powerful assistance and salvation as in the
great name of Mary" ("Non est in aliquot
alio nominee tam potens adjutorium, nec est aliquod nomen datum hominibus,
post dulce nomen Jesu, ex quo tanta salus refundatur hominibus"De
Laud. B. M. l. 11). He says, "there is not such powerful help
in any name, nor is there any other name given to men, after that of
Jesus, from which so much salvation is poured forth upon men as from the
name of Mary." Moreover, it is well known, and is daily experienced by
the clients of Mary, that her powerful name gives the particular strength
necessary to overcome temptations against purity. The same author in his
commentary on the words of St. Luke, and the Virgin's name was Mary
("Et nomen Virginis Maria"Luke i.
27), remarks that these two words, Mary and Virgin, are joined
together by the Evangelist, to denote that the name of this most pure
Virgin should always be coupled with the virtue of chastity"
("Nomini Mariae virginitas et sanctitas
inseparabiliter sunt adjuncta"Loco cit.). Hence St. Peter
Chrysologus says, "that the name of Mary is an indication of chastity"
("Nomen hoc, indicium castitatis"Serm.
146), meaning, that when we doubt as to whether we have consented
to thoughts against this virtue, if we remember having invoked the name of
Mary, we have a certain proof that we have not sinned.
Let us, therefore, always take advantage of the beautiful
advice given us by St. Bernard, in these words: "In dangers, in
perplexities, in doubtful cases, think of Mary, call on Mary; let her not
leave thy lips; let her not depart from thy heart"
("In periculis, in angustiis, in rebus
dubriis, Mariam cogita, Mariam invoca; non recedat ab ore, non recedat a
corde"De Laud. V. M. hom. 2). In every danger of
forfeiting divine grace, we should think of Mary, and invoke her name,
together with that of Jesus; for these two names always go together. O,
then, never let us permit these two most sweet names to leave our hearts,
or be off our lips; for they will give us strength not only not to yield,
but to conquer all our temptations.
Consoling indeed are the promises of help made by Jesus Christ
to those who have devotion to the name of Mary; for one day in the hearing
of St. Bridget, he promised his most holy Mother that he would grant three
special graces to those who invoke that holy name with confidence: first,
that he would grant them perfect sorrow for their sins; secondly, that
their crimes should be atoned for; and, thirdly, that he would give them
strength to attain perfection, and at length the glory of paradise. And
then our divine Savior added: "For thy words, O my Mother, are so sweet
and agreeable to me, that I cannot deny what thou askest"
("Habitatores mundi indigent tribus:
contritione pro peccatis, satisfactione, fortitudine ad faciendum bona.
Quicumque invocaverit nomen tuum, et spem habet in te, cum proposito
emendandi commissa, ista tria dabuntur ei, insuper et regnum coeleste.
Tanta enim est mihi dulcedo in verbis tuis, ut non possim negare quae
petis"Rev. l. 1, c. 50).
St. Ephrem goes so far as to say, "that the name of Mary is
the key of the gates of heaven" ("Nomen
Mariae est reseratorium portae coeli"De Laud. Dei Gen.), in
the hands of those who devoutly invoke it. And thus it is not without
reason that St. Bonaventure says "that Mary is the salvation of all who
call upon her:" for he addresses her, saying: "O salvation of all who
invoke thee!" ("O Salus te invocantium!")
meaning, that to obtain eternal salvation and invoke her name are
synonyumous; and Richard of St. Laurence affirms, "that the devout
invocation of this sweet and holy name leads to the acquisition of
superabundant graces in this life, and a very high degree of glory in the
next" ("Devota invocation nominis ejus
ducit ad virorem gratiae in praesenti, ad virorem gloriae in futuro"De
Laud B. M. l. 1, c. 2). "If then, O brethren," concludes
Thomas ΰ Kempis, "you desire consolation in every labor, have recourse to
Mary; invoke the name of Mary, honor Mary, recommend yourselves to Mary,
rejoice with Mary, weep with Mary, pray with Mary, walk with Mary, seek
Jesus with Mary; in fine, desire to live and die with Jesus and Mary. By
acting thus you will always advance in the ways of God, for Mary will most
willingly pray for you, and the Son will most certainly grant all that his
Mother asks" ("Si consolari in omni
tribulatione quaeritis, accedite ad Mariam. Mariam invocate, Mariam
honorate, Mariae vos commendate; cum Maria gaudete, cum Maria dolete, cum
Maria orate, cum Maria ambulate, cum Maria Jesum quaerite, cum Maria et
Jesu vivere et mori desiderate. Fratres, si ista exercetis, proficietis;
Maria libenter pro vobis orabit, et Jesus libenter Matrem suam exaudiet"Ad
Nov. s. 21).
Thus we see that the most holy name of Mary is sweet indeed to
her clients during life, on account of the very great graces that she
obtains for them. But sweeter still will it be to them in death, on
account of the tranquil and holy end that it will insure them.
Father Sertorius Caputo, of the Society of Jesus, exhorted all
who assist the dying frequently to pronounce the name of Mary; for this
name of life and hope, when repeated at the hour of death, suffices to put
the devils to flight, and to comfort such persons in their sufferings.
"The invocation of the sacred names of Jesus and Mary," says
Thomas ΰ Kempis, "is a short prayer which is as sweet to the mind, and as
powerful to protect those who use it against the enemies of their
salvation, as it is easy to remember" ("Haec
sancta oratio: 'Jesus et Maria,' brevis est ad legendum, facilis ad
tenendum, dulcis ad cogitandum, fortis ad protegendum"Vall. Lil.
"Blessed is the man who loves thy name, O Mary"
("Beatus vir qui diligit nomen tuum,
Maria"), exclaims St. Bonaventure. "Yes, truly blessed is he who
loves thy sweet name, O Mother of God! for," he continues, "thy name is so
glorious and admirable, that no one who remembers it has any fears at the
hour of death" ("Gloriosum et admirabile
est nomen tuum; qui illud retinent, non expavescent in puncto mortis"Psalt.
B. V. ps. i. 110). Such is its power, that none of those who
invoke it at the hour of death fear the assaults of their enemies.
Oh, that we may end our lives as did the Capuchin Father,
Fulgentius of Ascoli, who expired singing, "O Mary, O Mary, the most
beautiful of creatures! Let us depart together;" or according to the
annals of the Order, like Blessed Henry the Cistercian, who expired in the
very moment that he was pronouncing the most sweet name of Mary
("Inter ipsam dulcissimi nominis
Let us then, O devout reader, beg God to grant us, that at
death the name of Mary may be the last word on our lips. This was the
prayer of St. Germanus: "May the last movement of my tongue be to
pronounce the name of the Mother of God"
("Dei Matris nomen sit mihi ultimus linguae loquentis motus"In Deip.
Ann.); O sweet, O safe is that death which is accompanied and
protected by so saving a name; for God only grants the grace of invoking
it to those whom he is about to save.
O my sweet Lady and Mother, I love thee much, and because I
love thee I also love thy holy name. I purpose and hope, with thy
assistance, always to invoke it during life and at death. And to conclude
with the tender prayer of St. Bonaventure: "I ask thee, O Mary, for the
glory of thy name, to come and meet my soul when it is departing from this
world, and to take it in thine arms" ("In
exitu animae meae de hoc mundo, occurred illi, Domina, et suscipe eam").
"Disdain not, O Mary," the saint continues, "to come then and comfort me
with thy presence. Be thyself my soul's ladder and way to heaven. Do
thou thyself obtain for it the grace of forgiveness and eternal repose"
("Consolare eam vultu sancto tuo; esto
illi scala et iter ad paradisum Dei; impetra ei indulgentiam pacis, et
sedem lucis"). He then concludes saying, "O Mary, our advocate, it
is for thee to defend thy clients, and to undertake their cause before the
tribunal of Jesus Christ" ("Sustine
devotos ante tribunal Christi; suscipe causam eorum in minibus tuis"Psalt.
B. V. ps. 113).
St. Camillus de Lellis urged the members of his community to remind the
dying often to utter the holy names of Jesus and Mary. Such was his
custom when assisting people in their last hour. When he himself came to
die he gave an edifying example of confidence in the holy names. His
biographer relates that when death was approaching, the saint invoked the
sweet names of Jesus and Mary with such tender devotion that all present
were inflamed with love for the sacred names. With his eyes fixed on the
images of Jesus and Mary, and his arms crossed on his breast, an
expression of heavenly peace rested on his face when his soul took its
flight. His last words were the sacred names of Jesus and Mary.
O great Mother of God and my Mother Mary, it is true that I am unworthy to
name thee; but thou, who lovest me and desirest my salvation, must,
notwithstanding the impurity of my tongue, grant that I may always invoke
thy most holy and powerful name in my aid, for thy name is the succor of
the living, and the salvation of the dying. Ah, most pure Mary, most
sweet Mary, grant that henceforth thy name may be the breath of my life.
O Lady, delay not to help me when I invoke thee, for in all the
temptations which assail me, and in all my wants, I will never cease
calling upon thee, and repeating again and again, Mary, Mary. Thus it is
that I hope to act during my life, and more particularly at death, that
after that last struggle I may eternally praise thy beloved name in
heaven, O clement, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary. Ah, Mary, most amiable
Mary, with what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what
tenderness, is my soul penetrated in only naming, in only thinking of
thee! I thank my Lord and God, who, for my good, has given thee a name so
sweet and deserving of love, and at the same time so powerful. But, my
sovereign Lady, I am not satisfied with only naming thee, I wish to name
thee with love: I desire that my love may every hour remind me to call on
thee, so that I may be able to exclaim with St. Bonaventure, "O name of
the Mother of God, thou art my love" ("O
amor mei, nomen Matris Dei"Med. de Sal. B. V.). My own
dear Mary, O my beloved Jesus, may your most sweet names reign in my
heart, and in all hearts. Grant that I may forget all others to remember,
and always invoke, your adorable names alone. Ah! Jesus my Redeemer, and
my Mother Mary, when the moment of death comes when I must breathe forth
my soul and leave this world, deign, through your merits, to grant that I
may then pronounce my last words, and that they may be "I love thee, O
Jesus; I love thee, O Mary; to you do I give my heart and my soul."