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Stella Matutina

Stella Matutina

– answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: What is the origin and meaning of the expression stella matutina or morning star?

A: Stella matutina or morning star is first used in the Padua version of the Litanies of Loreto (fourteenth century; Capitolare B63). In a Parisian manuscript of the twelfth century we find the expressions Stella marina" and lux matutina ("star of the sea" and "light of the morning") (Paris, Nat. lat. 5267). It is believed that the author of the Padua Litanies combined these two titles into one to become stella matutina.

The morning star is a sign of the coming day, the announcement of the rising sun; it is a promise of light. It announces the coming "sun of justice" (Mal 4:3), the "daybreak from on high visiting us" (Lk 1:78). Mary is morning star not for and through herself, but she is only the reflection of the creator and redeemer. She exalts his glory. When she emerges from darkness we know that the day is near (Newman).

The meaning of Morning Star is related to that of Star of the Sea (see the question: Star of the Sea). According to Saint Bernard, Mary may be compared to a star. A star radiates light without losing its brightness; Mary thus did not lose her virginity giving birth to Christ. She is the star which goes out from Jacob and whose light illumines the world. This star kindles the fire of the spirit, hastens the growth of virtues and burns out vices. Mary, the star, has a role as spiritual model and ideal (De laudibus Virg. Matris 2.17; PL 183, 70f).

Let us be mindful that the symbol of the Morningstar is also used to designate Jesus Christ, himself. In Rev. 22:16 Jesus calls himself the Morningstar. He is the true "Lucifer," the harbinger of Light, not the one mentioned in Isaiah 14:12. The "bright Morningstar" calls himself also the "root and offspring of David" (Rev. 22:16) who received authority from his Father (Rev. 2:26). He will give this authority, symbolized again with the Morningstar ("And to him, I will give the Morningstar, Rev. 2:28) to the victor, "who keeps to my ways to the end" (Rev. 2:26). Jesus is the "star (that) will come out of Jacob" (Nb 24:17-19) as announced by Bileam. This star, the "Star of David" is a symbol of the kingship of David. The prophets had written that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David. The symbol was thus not for David personally, but a symbol for the Messiah, the King of Kings. Jesus Christ, the Messiah and "Morningstar" endows with his messianic authority and light, those who follow him and persevere in his service.

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