Skip to content

Mary’s many titles

Dear Parishioners and Friends,

What is the purpose for Mary possessing so many titles?  After all, isn’t Mother of God sufficient (although even this title is challenged by many of our separated Christian sisters and brothers).  Are these varied titles simply untamed piety and expressions of an overly zealous devotion?   Are those who refute Marian devotion correct when making the claim that we Catholics have a preoccupation with her?  In other words, are we simply going overboard?

While I appreciate the questions and even the skeptical inquiries, I respectfully disagree that this is merely superfluous devotion.  Each title says something about our salvation.

For example, Mary is called Mother of God.  No, you can’t find the title in scripture, but as a Muslim friend who once guided me through the land of Turkey explained, “Father, If Christians believe that Mary is the Mother of Jesus and believe that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity – therefore God – why would they reject this?  Mary would have to be the Mother of God!”   Although not a Christian himself, he certainly understood the logic of this premier title for Mary, a title declared at the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.  In 1854, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was declared, reflecting our belief that Mary was conceived without original sin because of God’s prevenient grace.

As with this title, the titles of Mary always say something about her relationship with Christ, his mission, and his Church.   Other rich examples may be found in Marian litanies.  Most of these point to the prophecies and symbolism of the Old Testament.  Tower of David, for example, stood on the highest summit surrounding Jerusalem and therefore was a place used to defend the people. With Mary being called by this title we affirm that she who was filled with grace is a defender of all God’s children, keeping us safe. 

Another example, Tower of Ivory comes from the Song of Songs and  Psalm 45 as both make reference to this symbol as a beloved bride.  Vatican II (Lumen Gentium, no. 64) reminds us that Mary is a “type of the Church” which is the beloved bride of Christ the bridegroom.  Like Mary, the Church receives the Word of God through the Holy Spirit and in faith becomes a mother.  

Furthermore, Mary as Ark of the Covenant is in reference to the Old Testament’s Ark of the Covenant which housed the Law of God.  Like the ark, she would be the shelter for the One who came to fulfill the Law of God. 

If we take the time to learn why the titles are given, we not only discover a beautiful treasure of our faith, we can actually gain strength through meditating upon each one.  The Church offers every devotion, every prayer, to draw us closer to the Most Holy Trinity.  And by Mary’s total and complete “yes” her many titles point to God’s divine plan as it unfolded throughout the ages. 

Are we Catholics going a bit overboard with Marian titles?  Let’s first rediscover the rich meaning of these titles and apply them to the challenges found in our present age. Then we’ll answer the question about going overboard.

Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us!

Fr. Gurnick