The Mother of Jesus, hence the Mother of God.
She's a very special person, not only among women but the among all of the human race. For a person of such importance in salvation history, one may ponder whether her given name has an appropriateness to her role. If God intended the meaning to be significant, then we should search it out.
Looking into the origin & meaning of Mary
The Dictionary of Mary says that more than 70 meanings have been applied to Mary over time, most based on devotion rather than philology. The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary says of the number of given meanings, none are certain. This is echoed by A Catholic Dictionary which says the origin and meaning of the name are uncertain. But while A Catholic Dictionary says the name may mean "wished-for child," it says it seems certain it has "nothing to do with 'bitterness,' 'the sea,' or 'a star.'"
Myrrh & bitterness
let's look at these seemingly certain rule-outs. First, let's look at bitterness and what
several other sources have to say. A name book by Lareina Rule says
Marah was the Hebrew word for the bitter resin myrrh, used in Biblical
times as incense and perfume. She says
Mary comes from Hebrew "marah; miryam
'bitter or bitterness.'" In What's in a Name
by Favius Friedman it says
Mary "stems from Mara, Hebrew for
'bitterness or rebellion.'" The Dictionary of Mary says
Mary is Maryam in
Aramaic and Myriam in the Hebrew Old Testament. Consider
Ruth 1:20, which
says "Do not call me Naomi ("pleasant").
Call me Mara, for the Almighty has made it very bitter for me,"
and consider the contemporary Spanish word "amargo" which means
Star of the sea?
What of "the sea" and "a star" mentioned above by A Catholic Dictionary? The Dictionary of Mary tells of the following explanation, through the work of St. Jerome: the Hebrew yam means "sea," and from it came stilla maris "drop of the sea," the sea being God. A copyist erred, and the "i" became an "e," making stella maris, changing the meaning to "star of the sea." This in turn became a favored title for Mary through the hymn Ave Stella Maris, "Hail, Star of the Sea." Stella is star in Latin. Even if "star" is etymologically unfounded, still "star of the sea" is a happy mistake. It can lead one to think of ourselves being on the sea of life, away from our heavenly shore, with Mary as a guiding star, showing the direction in which to steer.
what of another meaning mentioned by Favius Friedman, that of
"rebellion." It's been cited elsewhere, in the Maryknoll Dictionary
and the Websters Collegiate. Rebellion also seems inappropriate
to Mary, for
she was certainly not rebellious to God, quite the opposite.
BE SOBER AND VIGILANT. YOUR OPPONENT THE DEVIL IS PROWLING AROUND LIKE A ROARING LION LOOKING FOR (SOMEONE) TO DEVOUR. RESIST HIM, STEADFAST IN FAITH... 1 Peter 5:8-9
A Canaanite source?
same Marian dictionary says several interpretations of the name
Mary are indicated
by modern linguistics, as being more probable. The most probable
relates to a language akin to Hebrew, that of the Canaanites.
Archeological expeditions at Ugarit in Syria 70 some years ago,
brought to light an idiom used in those regions. In unearthed tables
was name myrm, from the verb rwm, literally meaning
"lofty" or "high": therefore, "august" or "exalted." It certainly fits
Mary, exalted by God.
— John Riedell
Copyright © 2005 - John Riedell - All