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Ecce Ancilla Domini

Ecce Ancilla Domini

On this feast day of the Most Holy Name of Mary, I would like to share with you an inspiring homily by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. It is included in the Matins readings for today and is part of a larger sermon on the Annunciation:

The verse of the evangelists ends thus: “And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Let us say a few words upon this name also. The word “Mary” means “Star of the Sea,” Which seems to have a wonderful fitness to the Virgin Mother.

For she is fitly compared to a star; for just as a star sends forth its ray without injury ot itself, so the Virgin, remaining a virgin, brought forth her Son. The ray does not diminish the clearness of the star, nor the Son of the Virgin her virginity. She is even that noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray enlightens the whole world, whose splendor both shines in the heavens and penetrates into hell: and as it traverses the lands, it causes minds to glow with virtues more than bodies with heat, while vice it burns up and consumes. She, I say, is that beautiful and admirable star, which raised of necessity above this great and spacious sea of life, shining with virtues and affording an illustrious example. Whosoever you are who know yourself to be tossed among the storms and tempests of this troubled world rather than to be walking peacefully upon the shore, turn not your eyes away from the shining of this star, if you would not be overwhelmed with the tempest. If the winds of temptations arise, if you are driving upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star, invoke Mary! If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, ambition, envy, rivalry, look to the star, invoke Mary! If wrath, avarice, temptations of the flesh assail the frail skiff of your mind, look to Mary! If you are troubled by the greatness of your crimes, confused by the foulness of your conscience and, desperate with horror of judgement, you feel yourself drawn into the abyss of despair; in dangers, in difficulties, in perplexities: invoke and think of Mary! Let not the name depart from heart and from lips; and that you may obtain a part in the petitions of her prayer, do not desert the example of her life. If you think of and follow her, you will not go wrong, nor despair if you beg of her. With her help you will not fall or be fatigued; with her protection you will not fear; if she favorable, you will be sure to arrive; and thus you will learn by your own experience how right it is said: “And the Virgin’s Name was Mary!”

(From The Office of Our Lady, Vol. 2 (Summer) by the Monks of Encalcat Abbey. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1962.)