The name Mary means “bitter sea,” and St. Bonaventure saw that meaning as a reference to her role in spiritual warfare.
The Blessed Virgin was named Mary, a name in Hebrew that has a very interesting meaning.
The Hebrew form of Mary is miryam. and some biblical scholars have seen in it the Hebrew words mar (bitter) and yam (sea). This first meaning can refer to Mary’s bitter suffering at the cross and her many tears of sorrow.
However, St. Bonaventure believed it was referring to Mary’s role in spiritual warfare, as he explains in his Mirror of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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.
He then goes on to expand on this point, diving deeper into the meaning of Mary’s name.
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 superabounding 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.
This reflection by St. Bonaventure, recalling Mary’s power over demons, has been ratified by many exorcists.
Famed exorcist Fr. Gabriele Amorth confirmed this reality in his dialogues with the devil, when the devil said to him, “I am more afraid when you say the Madonna’s name, because I am more humiliated by being beaten by a simple creature, than by Him.”
While Mary’s name can be interpreted a number of ways, it is interesting to see how one saint saw it in light of spiritual warfare.