St. Alphonsus explains why the name “Mary,” one of whose meanings is “bitter sea,” is fitting for our Lord’s mother.
“The passion of Jesus,” St. Bernard says, “began with his birth.” Mary was in all things like her Son, so in a similar way, she endured her martyrdom throughout her life.
“A bitter sea” is one of the meanings of the name of Mary, as St. Albert the Great asserts. So the words of Jeremiah can be applied to her: “Vast as the sea is your ruin” (Lam 2:13). For just as the sea is all bitter and salt, so also was the life of Mary always full of bitterness at the sight of the passion of the Redeemer, which was ever present to her mind.
The angel revealed to St. Bridget: “There can be no doubt that Mary was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to a far higher degree than all the prophets. So she, far better than they, understood the predictions concerning the Mes- siah recorded by them in the Sacred Scriptures.” He added: “Even before she became Jesus’ mother, the Blessed Virgin knew how much the incarnate Word was to suffer for the salvation of men, and had compassion on this innocent Sav- ior, who was to be so cruelly put to death for crimes not his own. So even then, Mary began her great martyrdom.”
Her grief was immeasurably increased when she became the mother of this Savior. At the sad sight of the many torments that were to be endured by her poor Son, she indeed suffered a long martyrdom, a martyrdom that lasted her whole life. —St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary
Though the saints may speak of Mary’s “bitterness,” the intended mean- ing of the word is her severe distress, not the more common meaning today of a long-term resentment that comes from failing to forgive. Even so, the first sort of
bitterness in life can lead to the second sort. Do I have any resentments that I need to relinquish through forgiveness?
Blessed Mother, help me strive for peace with everyone through God’s grace, so that no “root of bitterness” may “spring up and cause trouble” within me (Heb 12:14–15).
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