The Redeemer, Mary, and You
A Sign that Enlightens Us
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” —Revelation 12:1
This Scripture quote that speaks of “sign” and “stars” has been used to proclaim the place of Mary in our Catholic tradition for more than 900 years. Many Fathers of the Church, mystics, and saints have cited this Scripture passage to explain the place of Mary in salvation history.
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis speaks of Mary as the “star of new evangelization.” He writes: “Mary is able to recognize the traces of God’s Spirit in events great and small….She is the woman of prayer and work in Nazareth, and she is also Our Lady of Help, who sets out from her town ‘with haste’ to be of service to others….This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others is why the ecclesial community looks to Mary as a model of evangelization” (EG 288, see Luke 1:39).
The star became a symbol in liturgical art and hymnody, calling attention to the veneration of the Mother of God. It became the symbol for Mary. This star appears on the top of Mary’s vale in the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Many images of Mary show the starin various designs. Sometimes twelve stars surround her head, reflecting the quotation from the Book of Revelation. Other times, stars appear on what Mary wears, as seen in the clothing of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
There are poems and hymns referring to Mary as a star. It is one of the most common symbols in art, used to point to the figure of Mary.
The star is considered a manifestation of something important. It is a sign that points to a direction, such as the star the Wise Men followed to find the Savior. Astrologers study stars to understand the galaxy.
The star, a symbol of Mary, tells us she is a sign that points to something and enlightens us in our journey of life. Mary, in her example of faith, points to Jesus, our Savior. Her example teaches us how to live the gospel of Christ. Her role in salvation history is to guide us.
Following the lead of Mary as she is described in the Gospels gives us examples of how to become a “star of evangelization.” Through compassion, mercy, and understanding we can become signs of hope for our friends and neighbors who need God’s tenderness and mercy.