“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, the Morning Star (through words of Blessed John Henry Newman)

There are times when I know exactly what I am going to write for a “Mondays with Mary” and then there are times when I struggle to find a topic. Today was one of those days, however, after a miscue on what reading I was suppose to read last night at our monthly Latin Novus Ordo Mass, it came to me, well it came to me through a friend. I was supposed to read the first reading, but I read the second reading. She said to me, Tom, you had to read that reading because it mentioned “morning star” and you had to read about Mary.

So for today’s blog post on the Blessed Mother, I am going to focus on the Marian title, Morning Star, but through the words of Blessed John Henry Newman. However, before I give you his words, let me briefly explain this title to you and what it means.

In the Litany of Loreto, there isn’t a title that is more precise than “Morning Star.” All stars image the Blessed Virgin Mary for she is the reflection of the brightest star, Jesus Christ. One of the most popular titles for Mary is “Star of the Sea”, which derives from ancient Marian hymns. In September, I will focus on this Marian title more.

The title “Morning Star” is often associated with the Blessed Mother because the Church interprets this verse from Song of Songs – “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun?” (6:10) as a description of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the “Morning Star”, Mary precedes the coming of the star that lights the day, the star that points to the largest star. As always, Mary is leading us closer to Jesus Christ.

Now that we have a brief understanding of this title, let us turn to the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, a man who can say hello and good-bye more eloquently than me. As often happens with the saints, after I read this explanation of the Morning Star from Newman, my one word was…Wow!

“WHAT is the nearest approach in the way of symbols, in this world of sight and sense, to represent to us the glories of that higher world which is beyond our bodily perceptions? What are the truest tokens and promises here, poor though they may be, of what one day we hope to see hereafter, as being beautiful and rare? Whatever they may be, surely the Blessed Mother of God may claim them as her own. And so it is; two of them are ascribed to her as her titles, in her Litany—the stars above, and flowers below. She is at once the Rosa Mystica and the Stella Matutina.

And of these two, both of them well suited to her, the Morning Star becomes her best, and that for three reasons.

First, the rose belongs to this earth, but the star is placed in high heaven. Mary now has no part in this nether world. No change, no violence from fire, {77} water, earth, or air, affects the stars above; and they show themselves, ever bright and marvellous, in all regions of this globe, and to all the tribes of men.

And next, the rose has but a short life; its decay is as sure as it was graceful and fragrant in its noon. But Mary, like the stars, abides for ever, as lustrous now as she was on the day of her Assumption; as pure and perfect, when her Son comes to judgment, as she is now.

Lastly, it is Mary’s prerogative to be the Morning Star, which heralds in the sun. She does not shine for herself, or from herself, but she is the reflection of her and our Redeemer, and she glorifies Him. When she appears in the darkness, we know that He is close at hand. He is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Behold He comes quickly, and His reward is with Him, to render to everyone according to his works. ‘Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.'”

Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Star…Pray for Us 

775th Blog Post 

“Mondays with Mary” – Symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A few weeks ago, on the third anniversary of “Mondays with Mary”, I focused on the Blessed Virgin in Sacred Art. For the last May blog post of this year, I would like to draw your attention to some of the symbols most commonly associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is hardly a comprehensive list, but something in order to wet your appetite in the hopes that you will seek out other symbols that have honored and reflected our beautiful and advocating Mother.

In the past, I have spoken about some of these before, so I suggest you click on the links provided in this blog post to learn more about the symbols in previous writings of mine. A common aspect of my blogging is that I try to link previous posts of mine to the current posts.

The first symbol is the Tower of David –

Tower of David

One of the titles the Church applies to Mary is the Tower of David. Just as David’s Tower once provided security and fortification against his enemies, so too does Mary stand against Satan and his followers, who seek to rout out the Church. As our Queen Mother, she keeps us safe and far away from the attacks of Satan.

The Old Testament book Song of Solomon (also known as Song of Songs) states, “Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an arsenal, whereon hang a thousand bucklers, all of them shields of warriors” (4:4).

The second symbol is the Vine and the Grapes –

Vines and Grapes

One of the earliest symbols given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by the Early Church Fathers, is that of the fruitful vine with the bountiful of grapes. In the 11th century, one of the newest Doctors of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen, explained in her theology that Jesus was the Vine that came forth from the heart of Mary. As He came forth from his Mother’s heart, there also comes the fruit and good works of the followers of Jesus Christ.

The third symbol is the Morning Star.

Shining star

The morning star, usually associated with the first star of the day, brings light to the dawn of the day and gets us ready for the full radiant beauty of the sun. In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that he will give us this star to all those continue to follow Him till He returns again (22:16). In relation to Mary, she is the Morning Star leading us close to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The fourth symbol is the Fleur-de-lis.

Fleur-de-lis

This very ancient symbol synthesizes the iris (flower of the lily) and the Madonna lily and has long been connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary because the purity she witnessed throughout her entire life. The Fleur-de-Lis, which emphasizes life, light, and perfection, is the definitive symbol of the Holy Trinity and the Blessed Mother. In relation to the Holy Trinity, Mary is a daughter, mother, and spouse.

The fifth symbol is the Rosebush.

Rosebush

For an explanation on the Rose, along with the other flowers associated with the Blessed Virgin, I would encourage you to read the most popular blog post in this series, The Flowers of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As we close the Month of Mary for this year, I would encourage you to share with your family and friends this post and the many others I have written for the sole purpose to explain to Catholics the importance that Mary plays in Salvation History as the Mother of God.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Star of the Sea that Shines Through Advent

As we enter the Season of Advent, our attention is drawn to the coming of Emmanuel – Jesus Christ. We see his first coming in the Incarnation which in turn will prepare us for His second coming, where He will judge the living and the dead. Just as Mary welcomed Jesus with great hope, the Church does the same. The first half of Advent, through her liturgy, prayers, readings and antiphons, the Church anticipates the eschatological return of Jesus Christ on the Last Day as Supreme Judge.

Within the Advent season, we see two Marian feasts that display the important role that Mary plays in Salvation History, the role of preceding Christ – the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. As the sunrise follows the dawn so too does the Blessed Virgin prepare the Church, and all of humanity, for the coming of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As the Star of the Sea, which shines with great brilliance, Mary not only guides us through the night of Advent, but through the waves and storms of life helping us to reach the port of Heaven.

Mary - Star of the Sea

Pope St. John Paul II summarizes this with great articulation when he says,

“It is a fact that when “the fullness of time” was definitively drawing near-the saving advent of Emmanuel- she who was from eternity destined to be his Mother already existed on earth. The fact that she “preceded” the coming of Christ is reflected every year in the liturgy of Advent. Therefore, if to that ancient historical expectation of the Savior we compare these years which are bringing us closer to the end of the second Millennium after Christ and to the beginning of the third, it becomes fully comprehensible that in this present period we wish to turn in a special way to her, the one who in the “night” of the Advent expectation began to shine like a true “Morning Star” (Stella Matutina). For just as this star, together with the “dawn,” precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior, the rising of the “Sun of Justice” in the history of the human race” (Redemptoris Mater #3).

As we enter this Advent season, let us go “to Jesus through Mary”, which follows the identical path of Our Lord who came through Mary His Mother. Let us invoke the Marian antiphon, commonly recited following Compline (night prayers or solemn vespers), known as the Alma Redemptoris Mater. It is in this song of honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary that we as sinners seek the intercession of Mary, our perpetual Ever-Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, Open Gate to Heaven, and the Star of the Sea –

Loving mother of the Redeemer, gate of heaven, star of the sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners.