The Star of Our Redemption

This is the 11th article in a series on the Litany of Loreto. Every month, I will explain this popular prayer line by line, providing you with spiritual and theological insights.

View the previous article in this series.

By Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

Gate of Heaven, pray for us.
This title brings us all the way back to Adam and Eve. By eating what God forbade her to eat, Eve committed the first act that led to the fall of humanity. Adam followed her lead, and consequently, God expelled them both from the Garden of Eden, barring the way for anyone to reenter. Scripture says, "He expelled the man, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life" (Gen 3:24). But then God, of course, chose to save mankind. To reverse Eve's sin, He gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, the New Eve, the opportunity to commit the first act that would lead to our salvation. Through her "yes," Mary opened the heavenly gate that Eve's sin had closed.

Morning Star, pray for us.
Mary's association with stars can be traced back to the star over Bethlehem at the birth of Christ (see Mt 2:2). We find stars again associated with Mary in Revelation, which says, "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head" (12:1). "Morning Star" encompasses a similar title of Mary not specifically used in the Litany of Loreto. That title is "Star of the Sea," or in Latin, "Ave Maris Stella." The name Star of the Sea dates back at least to the ninth century and is also the title of a popular Marian hymn, often sung or recited in the Divine Office. Actually, Doctor of the Church St. Bernard of Clairvaux translates the very name "Mary," which comes from the name "Mariam" in Hebrew, as quite literally meaning "star of the sea."

Saint Bernard said, "[The Virgin Mary] is that shining and brilliant star, so much needed, set in place above life's great and spacious sea, glittering with merits, all aglow with examples for our imitation. ... When the storms [of] temptation burst upon thee, when thou seest thyself driven upon the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, call upon Mary."

Here, in the Litany of Loreto, Mary is referred to more specifically as the "Morning" Star. This title emphasizes that Mary appears to the world just before the night gives way to the dawn, to the rising of the sun (Son). If the night sky is fallen humanity, Mary is that little bit of light that breaks through the darkness, leading the way to a new day.

Health of the Sick, pray for us.
Likely the most called-upon intercessor in history, the Blessed Virgin Mary has healed countless people across the centuries. Whether we've called upon her through Rosaries, Miraculous Medals, scapulars, or in some other way, we all know someone (or have at least heard of someone) brought to health through graces obtained by the Blessed Mother.

As we all know, the Hail Mary ends with the words "now and at the hour of our death." Mary comes to us most powerfully in our convalescence, especially those moments closest to our death. If she doesn't heal us of a physical illness, this does not mean Mary stops being Health of the Sick. In Latin, the word for health is "salus," which also means "salvation." As the one who said "yes" to obeying God perfectly, Mary helps us with our spiritual health. She leads us to Jesus, to Heaven.

View the next article in this series.

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