“Mondays with Mary” – Mary, Star of the Sea

In my blog post on August 7th of this year, I spoke about Mary as the Morning Star, but also mentioned in that post that I would write about Mary, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) in September, closer to the actual feast day, which happens to be this Wednesday, September 27.

When speaking about the Marian star, there are two variations – the six-pointed star and the eight-pointed star. As you might know, the six-pointed star is essentially the Davidic Star. This star is used to show the role Mary plays in all of Salvation History. It fulfills her role as both Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. This star shows the repair that happens between God and man through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, where Mary assists her Son as his “helper.” Here we see the fulfillment of Adam and Eve with the New Adam and New Eve, since Adam’s “helper” in the Garden was Eve.

The eight-pointed star finds its origins in the number eight itself. The number eight represents salvation. The meaning comes from Genesis 6:18 – “But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” Here we see that eight-people escaped the Great Flood, finding salvation in the ark. In regards to the Blessed Virgin Mary, this star could be used to articulate one or most of the traits of Mary – i. Her role as Mother of the Redeemer in all her holiness and fullness of grace; ii. In regards to Jesus and the Trinity, she is His forerunner, his dawn before the sun rises; and iii. Through her role as Mother, she is luminous in all things.

Mary, Star of the Sea finds its foundation in the Scripture passage, 1 Kings 18:41-45, which references a small cloud that appears above the sea as a symbol of hope. It’s implying that rain is coming and the drought will cease. It is understood that the small cloud, about the size of a human hand, is seen from Mount Carmel and is the “Star of the Sea.” Mary, as the Star of the Sea brings hope, freedom, and rebirth to all of humanity for it is through her that we have Jesus Christ. This scriptural image was so profound that the Carmelites built a church on Mount Carmel and named it, Stella Maris.

The genesis of the term, stella maris, is often associated with St. Jerome, however, he called Mary “a drop of the sea” (stilla maris). Nevertheless, many of the Early Church Fathers focused on the term “Stella Maris” in their writings. A later period Church Father, and Archbishop of Reims, Hincmar, says that Mary is “a star of the sea assumed into the heavens.”

Not only did Early Church Fathers focus on her, early century composers wrote about Mary as the Star of the Sea. Most notably is the anonymous hymn from the eighth to ninth century titled, Ave Maris Stella. It is often attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and a few others, however nothing definitive has been proven. This hymn is still used today in the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) for Vespers (Evening Prayer) on Marian feasts. At the end of this blog post is the English translation and here is the Latin text.

Mary, the Star of the Sea is often associated with individuals that live and work near the sea. It is very much a maritime title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his 1997 Apostolic Letter (“moto proprio”), Stella Maris, Pope St. John Paul II said,

“Stella Maris has long been the favourite title by which people of the sea have called on her in whose protection they have always trusted: the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her son, Jesus Christ, accompanied his disciples in their vessels, helped them in their work and calmed the storms. And so the Church accompanies seafarers, caring for the special spiritual needs of those who for various reasons live and work in the maritime world.”

As we approach and celebrate this Marian feast on Wednesday, let us remember all those who have endured tragedy and sufferings, most especially the smaller islands in the Caribbean, with the recent Hurricanes of Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and ask for Mary’s intercession for these people through her title as Mary, Star of the Sea.  

Ave Maris Stella –

Hail, bright star of ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
Ever sinless Virgin,
Gate of heavenly rest.

Taking that sweet Ave
Which from Gabriel came,
Peace confirm within us,
Changing Eva’s name.

Break the captives’ fetters,
Light on blindness pour,
All our ills expelling,
Every bliss implore.

Show thyself a Mother;
May the Word Divine,
Born for us thy Infant,
Hear our prayers through thine.

Virgin all excelling,
Mildest of the mild,
Freed from guilt, preserve us,
Pure and undefiled.

Keep our life all spotless,
Make our way secure,
Till we find in Jesus,
Joy forevermore.

Through the highest heaven
To the Almighty Three,
Father, Son and Spirit,
One same glory be. Amen
.

Mary, Star of the Sea…Pray for Us 

Source:

“All About Mary.” Star of the Sea : University of Dayton, Ohio, udayton.edu/imri/mary/s/star-of-the-sea.php.