Glossary – M


Italian for “My Lady”. A name given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially when she is depicted holding the Christ Child.


A Greek word meaning wise persons (singular magus) this is the term applied to the astrologers from the East who visited the baby Jesus (see Matt 2:1-12).

Martyr (N.2473-74)

The word martyr comes from a Greek word meaning witness. It refers to someone who has given up their life for their faith. The first Christian Martyr was St Stephen whose martyrdom is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. At various times throughout the history of the Church, Christians have been persecuted and some have died as martyrs. Many of these have been canonised as Saints.

Messiah (N.436–40, 711–16)

Taken from a Hebrew word meaning ‘anointed one’, a title applied in ancient Israel to kings, priests and sometimes to prophets. By the time of Jesus, many in Israel had the expectation that God would raise up a leader from the House of David, their greatest king, to be the Messiah who would rescue them from their afflictions. Some understood this in terms of political liberation, others in a more strictly spiritual sense. Messiah was translated in Greek by the term Christos. Hence Jesus’ title, ‘Christ’, can be translated as ‘the anointed one’, or ‘the Messiah’. Jesus’ disciples came to realise that he was in the fullest sense of the term, the one promised whom ‘God has made both Lord and Messiah’ (Acts 2:36).


From a Catholic perspective a miracle is an unusual or unexpected manifestation of the presence and power of God in human history. There is no Hebrew word for miracle and the Greek word for miracle does not appear in the New Testament. Instead the Scriptures speak of “wonders”, “acts of power”, “works” and “signs”.

So the miracles of Jesus are signs of the power of God at work. The reign of God was shown by Jesus’ power over evil, illness, disability and nature. Jesus did not want to be a miracle man in the sense of a ‘wonder-worker’ or magician. He refused to work miracles to convince doubters such as Herod. The greatest miracle for Christians is the Resurrection, which actually happened, and which proclaims the power of God among us and his victory over sin and death.

Mission (N.849-860)

From the Latin missio meaning ‘a sending’. Those called by Christ are sent by him into the world to extend the Kingdom of God. The mission of the Church, the reason for its existence, is to evangelise, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.


From a Greek word monos meaning “life alone”. A movement among baptised believers who respond to God’s call for perfection (Mt 5:48; 19:16-26) by giving themselves through poverty, celibacy and obedience to a life of prayer, common worship and service. Towards the end of the Roman persecutions an ascetic existence in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine and Syria provided an alternative to martyrdom. In Egypt St Antony (251-356) and St Pachomius (290-346) helped to organise their followers around a rule of life and spiritual guides. Celtic forms of monasticism, developed by figures such as Patrick and Brigid, also became influential. In the West Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-550) and his Rule shaped the future of monasticism. At the heart of the monastic movement was the Monastry sometimes called an Abby.


An aromatic gum resin derived from a small tree which grows in the Middle East. In biblical times it was used as a perfume and in embalming the dead. Along with frankincense (see entry) and gold it was one of the gifts of the wise men to the infant Jesus (Matt 2:11).