Gate of Heaven, 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.”

-Alma Redemptoris Mater

The Church, since her origins in the 1st century, has honored and venerated Mary, the Mother of God. On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I want to reflect on two titles given to Mary. The first is ‘Gate of Heaven,’ and the second is ‘Star of the Sea.’ Firstly, it would be good to discuss the idea behind Marian titles. Someone might say “Mary’s not a gate or a star; she’s a human person.’ Mother of GodWell I have a response to such a snarky remark. Marian titles can have different purposes. Some Marian titles express doctrinal truths. Marian doctrine is so essential (in a philosophical sense) to Mary herself, that these titles express truths at the core of her being. The Church holds 5 doctrines (4 dogmatically defined) of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She believes that Mary was conceived without original sin. Mary is believed to have remained a Perpetual Virgin. She is believed to be the Mother of God. Mary is believed to have been assumed body and soul into Heaven. She is believed to have participated in the redemption, to mediate grace to mankind, and to advocate for mankind. Mary has been given many titles, some of which specifically refer to these doctrines: the Immaculate Conception, the Aeiparthenos, the Theotokos, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate. By dogmatically defining Marian doctrines, the Church has received much grace from increased knowledge of the work and significance of Mary, which is why many people seek the dogmatic definition of Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.

There are also Marian titles based on apparitions, like Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Lourdes (or Our Lady of Guadalupe). These titles seek to commemorate Our Lady’s apparitions and the messages of those apparitions. Because there are so many supposed apparitions, the Church investigates and discerns the validity of each one. It is important, therefore, to stress and seek the intercession of approved Marian apparitions. The Church also says that the Faithful can spread the message of apparitions that have not been formally approved or condemned. It is important in those instances, however, to accept the Church’s ruling on that apparition, whatever it may be. It is important to remember that apparitions are private revelation, and, because the messages do not belong to the Deposit of Faith, belief is not necessitated by the Church.

Other titles of Mary express the roles that she plays, either with relatively direct language or Our Lady, Rosaryutilizing images. Mary is Our Lady of the Rosary, for the power of the rosary is so immense, and we as Mary’s children can always seek her intercession through the rosary. She is also the Queen of All Saints. While the saints are indeed in paradise with the Lord in Heaven, Mary was the sole human person (since Christ is a Divine person) to neither sin nor experience the stain of sin throughout all her life. Therefore, she is lifted above all the other saints (also as the Theotokos) as Queen of All Saints.

As I said, there are also more figurative titles of Our Lady that express the roles she takes. Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant. Like the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, Mary bore the present of God. Just as the Spirit overshadowed the Ark, so too did the Spirit overshadow Our Lady. The Ark of the Covenant held a sample of manna, the rod of Aaron, and samples of the 10 commandments. The manna is a type of the Eucharist, while the rod and commandments symbolize priesthood and the Law, respectively. Mary thus bears these three things within her in the Person of Jesus Christ. So, while she is not literally an ark, Mary does fulfill the same role as the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, but in a fulfilled manner.

Like I said, I wanted to discuss two Marian images that we find in the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which is the Marian antiphon during this time of Advent: Gate of Heaven, and Star of the Sea. They might be my favorite Marian images. Firstly, Gate of Heaven. Mary is the Gate of Heaven, for it is through her that Christ came from Heaven to earth. And it is through her that we attain paradise, that we can get to Heaven. Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces, so it is through Mary that we are equipped with that which we need to get into Heaven, whether we do it intentionally or not. St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri said that “Mary having co-operated in our redemption with so much glory to God and so much love for us, Our Lord ordained that no one shall obtain salvation except through her intercession.” So Mary is the Gate through which all of mankind must go in order to get to Heaven. Either Mary grants us the grace because we seek her Son, or she grants us the grace because we seek her Son through her. The former is out of mercy, while the latter is right and just. It is only right that we seek to go to Christ through Mary, for Christ came to us through her.

Secondly, Mary is Star of the Sea. This is indeed a rich image. We are all out at sea, seeking our home. Some people are concerned Star of the Seaabout getting home, so they are just milling about, having a joyride at sea. Others are consulting maps and constellations. Others are looking out at sea for different landmasses to indicate where they are. In reality, as long as we look up at Our Lady, the Star of the Sea, we will never get lost. She always leads us in the right direction. If we follow her, we cannot get lost. That is a relieving thought, for, when we entrust ourselves to Mary, she will not fail to transform us into the Beloved Children of God, in order that she may present us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Sometimes, the seas get stormy, and we get lost, for we lose sight of the star. But if we keep our eyes fixed on Our Lady, we can battle through any storm that this life can give us.

Therefore, I encourage you to seek Our Lady, to seek her help, her guidance. Our Lady is the Gate of Heaven, through which we may attain eternal paradise with the Lord. She is the Star of the Sea, who leads us on our journey at sea to arrive safely home in paradise with the Lord. We can arrive there without acknowledging her. However, it is easier to get there by way of her. It is also more just, for Christ has desired for it to be that way. I encourage you to honor Our Lady, and hold her within your heart, so that the Holy Spirit can come place Jesus Christ within you.

“When the Holy Spirit, her spouse, finds Mary in a soul,
he hastens there and enters fully into it.
He gives himself generously to that soul
according to the place it has given to his spouse.
One of the main reasons why the Holy Spirit does not work
striking wonders in souls is that he fails to find in them
a sufficiently close union with his faithful and inseparable spouse.”

-St. Louis de Montfort

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Duc In Altum

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