Saint Ephrem on the Mystic Names of Mary

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:


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.


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.


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