Ave Maria!……. was inserted here not by the Angel, but by the devotion of the faithful. The Blessed Evangelist Luke says significantly: “And the name of the Virgin was Mary” (Luke I, 27.) This most holy, sweet, and worthy name was eminently fitting to so holy, sweet, and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons; to men she is the star of the sea; to the angels she is illuminatrix, and to all creatures she is lady.
Mary is interpreted: “a bitter sea”; this is excellently suited to her power against the demons. Note in what way Mary is a sea, and in what way she is bitter, and how she is at once a sea and bitter. Mary is a sea by the abundant overflow of her graces; and Mary is a bitter sea by submerging the devil. Mary is indeed a sea by the super abounding Passion of her Son; Mary is a bitter sea by her power over the devil, in which he is, as it were,
submerged and drowned.
Consider, first, that Mary is called a sea because of the abundance of her graces. It is written in Ecclesiasticus: “All rivers flow into the sea” (I, 7.) The rivers are the graces of the Holy Ghost, wherefore Jesus saith: “He who believeth in Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” This He said of the Spirit, which they were about to receive (John VII, 38.) All the rivers flow into the sea because the graces of all the saints flow into Mary.
For the river of the grace of the angels enters into Mary; and the river of the grace of the patriarchs enters into Mary; and the river of the grace of the Apostles enters into Mary; and the river of the grace of the martyrs enters into Mary; and the river of the grace of the confessors enters into Mary; and the river of the grace of the virgins enters into Mary.
All rivers enter into the sea, that is, all graces enter into Mary. Therefore, she above all can say that word of Ecclesiasticus: “In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, and in me is all hope of life and of virtue” (XXIV, 25.) What wonder if all grace flowed into Mary, through whom such grace flowed forth upon all ! For St. Augustine says: “Mary, thou art full of grace, which thou hast found with the Lord and hast merited to pour forth upon the whole world.”
Consider, secondly, that Mary in the Passion of her Son was filled with bitterness when the sword of sorrow passed through her soul. Well could she say with Ruth: “Call me not Noemi, that is fair, but call me Mara, that is bitter, for the Most High hath filled me exceedingly with bitterness” (Ruth I, 20.) Noemi, who was at once beautiful and bitter, signified Mary, beautiful indeed by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, but bitter by the Passion of her Son.
The two sons of Mary are the God-Man, in His Divinity, and man, in his humanity. Mary is the Mother of one in the body, of the other in the spirit. Wherefore St. Bernard saith: “Thou art the Mother of the King, thou art the Mother of the exile; thou art the Mother of God, the Judge, and thou art the Mother of God and of man; as thou art the Mother of both, thou canst not bear discord between thy two sons.” St. Anselm exclaims: “O blessed confidence, O safe refuge, Mother of God and our Mother!” The two sons of Mary were both slain in the Passion; the one in body, the other in mind; the one by the bitter death of the cross, the other by infidelity of mind. And, therefore, Mary’s soul was filled with exceeding bitterness, as St. Augustine testifies, saying: “That loving Mother crying out with intensity of pain, beating her enfeebled breast, had so fatigued her body and all its members, that, tottering in her walk, she could scarcely drag herself to the obsequies of Christ.” Thou seest now how Mary was a sea of the Holy Spirit; thou seest in what manner she was a bitter sea in the death of her Son.
Thirdly, consider that Mary is a bitter sea to the devil and to his angels, oppressed by him, as the Red Sea was bitter to the Egyptians submerged in it, of whom we read in Exodus:
“The Lord drew back upon them the waters of the sea” (Ex. XV, 19.) Oh, how bitter and full of fear is this sea to the Egyptians! Oh, how bitter and full of fear is this Mary to the demons! Therefore, St. Bernard saith: “Visible enemies fear not so greatly an immense multitude of hosts in battle array, as the powers of the air fear the name, the patronage, and the example of Mary; they flow and melt like wax before the fire, wherever they find
frequent recollection of this holy name, devout invocation of Mary, and diligent imitation of her. Thou seest now in what manner Mary is a sea by the abundance of her overflowing graces, how she is bitter by the vehemence of the Lord’s Passion, and how to the devils Mary is a bitter sea by the power she has of quelling them.
Now we must consider how Mary is interpreted “Star of the sea.” This name is most suitable to Mary, for she fulfills the office that a star does to mariners at sea. We read, and it is true, that sailors, when they propose to sail to some distant land, choose a star by whose guiding light they may, without going astray, make their way to the land of their desire. Such is certainly the office of Mary, our Star, who directs those who sail through the sea of the world in the ship of innocence or penance, to the shore of the heavenly country. Well, therefore, doth Innocent say: “By what aids can ships pass among so many dangers to the shore of the fatherland? Certainly,” he replies, “chiefly by two. By the wood and by the star; that is, by faith in the Cross, and by virtue of the light which Mary, the Star
of the sea, hath brought forth for us.” Very properly is Mary compared to a star of the sea, because of her purity, her radiance, and her utility. For Mary is a most pure star, a most radiant star, and a most useful star. She is a most pure star by living most purely; a most radiant star by bringing forth eternal light; a most useful star by directing us to the shores of our true home country.
First consider that Mary is a most pure star by living purely and without sin. Therefore doth Wisdom say of her: “She is more beautiful than light, than the sun, and above all the arrangement of the stars, and being compared to light, she is found more pure.” Some read here, “before” instead of “more pure,” but either phrase is fitted to our Star. For Mary
is indeed prior, or before, that is, she is most worthy, most great; Mary is purer than the sun, and the stars, and the light. For both in dignity and purity she surpasses the sun, the stars, and the light, yea, even every spiritual and angelic creature, of whom it is said: “God divides light from darkness,” that is, the angels who stood firm from those who fell. Mary is
prior to and purer than this angelic light. Hence Saint Anselm exclaims: “O Blessed among women, who surpassest the angels in purity, and the saints in piety!” Behold how Mary is a most pure Star by the purity of her life.
Secondly, consider that Mary is a most radiant star by emitting eternal light and bringing forth the Son of God. For she is that star of whom it is said in Numbers: “A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a rod shall arise in Israel.” The rod is the Son of God, who is the ray of Mary, our star; this is that ray of whom it is sung: “As the ray of a star.” St. Bernard says: “A ray from a star does not diminish its brightness, neither does the Son of the Virgin lessen the virginity of His Mother.” O most truly blessed, O most truly radiant Star, Mary, whose ray has penetrated not only the world, but also Heaven, and even hell, as St. Bernard says: “She is that glorious and beautiful Star arisen out of Jacob, whose ray illuminateth the whole world, whose splendor shines forth in the highest, and penetrates even into hell.” As Mary was a most pure star, by living most purely, so is she a most radiant one, by bringing forth the Son of God.