Sunday, May 12, 2013

Titles of Mary: Star of the Sea

WHEN for me the sun is setting
At the close of life's brief day;
When my little ship is nearing
Port in yonder crystal bay;
Then, 0 my beloved Mother,
Stretch thy kind hand out to me,
Shield me, till my feet have touch'd the

Shore sand of eternity.
When my strength begins to vanish,
And earth's memories to fade;
When my friends stand sad and silent,
Powerless to give me aid;
Then, my beloved Mother,
Hold my trembling hand in thine,
Till my eyes shall see the steeples
Of the Holy City shine.

When at last my weary spirit
Seeks admission to thy throne,
When my lips in anxious longing
For thy gracious blessing moan!
Then, 0 thrice beloved Mother,
Open wide thy home and heart,
And let me, thy child, dwell ever,
Where thou Queen and Mother art.

Title of Our Lady:  Star of the Sea

 The second Sunday in May has been traditionally designated as Stella Maris Sunday in many parts of the world.  This title of Our Lady, Star of the Sea -- or Stella Maris -- has always been one of my favorites.  As the daughter of a Navy man, I grew up near the ocean and always tended toward tales of the sea -- and even as a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd say, "an oceanographer."  Which didn't happen.   Alas, now I'm about as landlocked as a person can get, living in Colorado, but I still appreciate the meaning of Mary -- as a Star of the Sea. She is our refuge, our guide, our compass -- our North Star.  As sailors once depended upon the night sky to find their way, we can depend upon our Blessed Mother in the stormy seas of life. 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century) tells us:
"If the winds of temptation arise; If you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation look to the star, call on Mary; If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary. Should anger, or avarice, or fleshly desire violently assail the frail vessel of your soul, look at the star, call upon Mary."

Going back to the Old Testament from the time of St. Bernard, we find the first reference to the Mother of God as Star of the Sea in the Bible -- in 1 Kings 18:41-45:

 41And Elias said to Achab: Go up, eat, and drink: for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
42Achab went up to eat and drink: and Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees,
43And he said to his servant: Go up, and look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times.
44And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee.
45And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. And Achab getting up went away to Jezrahel:

The little cloud that Elias and Achab saw from Mt. Carmel has been interpreted(1) as the 'Star of the Sea' and Mary, then, like the quenching rains, is the sign of hope for mankind. It was on this same hill of Carmel that the Carmelites built a church in the early thirteenth century that they titled Stella Maris.   Though the abbey has been destroyed several times, it is always rebuilt and is still considered the headquarters of the Carmelite order to this day.

St. Jerome is believed to have had a part, as well, in the coining of this title of Our Blessed Mother(2).  In his writings of the early fifth century he refers to Mary as Stilla Maris, which is translated "drop of the sea."  It's possible that a transcriber inadvertently substituted an "e" for the "i" in Stilla -- and thus we have changed "drop" to "star."  However it came about, we have numerous references to Our Lady as Stella Maris through the centuries; St.  Isidore of Seville (d. 636); Alcuin (d. 804); and Rhabanus Maurus (d. 856) all use the title, as well as  Paschasius Radbertus (d. 865) who wisely pronounced:
Mary, Star of the Sea, must be followed in faith and morals lest we capsize amidst the storm-tossed waves of the sea. She will illumine us to believe in Christ, born of her for the salvation of the world. 
Through the centuries, many hymns have also been dedicated to Our Lady under the title Star of the Sea.  We have Ave Maris Stella (eigth-ninth century); and Alma Redemptoris Mater (by Hermann of Reichenau, eleventh century), for instance, as well as one of my all-time favorites:

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is patroness of the Catholic missions to seafarers, the Apostleship of the Sea, and to many coastal churches around the world which have been named in her honor.

Mother of Christ,
Star of the sea,
Pray for the wanderer,
pray for me!


AnchorMama said...

I'm attempting to get back to blogging and finally took the time to revise a blog post that had been bugging me. It's one you had commented on. Would you mind terribly taking a look and letting me know what you think? :)

AnchorMama said...

Thank you so much!!!