Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals and churches

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The Lady chapel at Cobh Cathedral

Concerning the titles of Our Lady displayed on the mosaic floor of the chapel, the following literary sources may be of use in understanding their conceptual complexity and iconographic antiquity.

1. ROSA MYSTICA (Mystical Rose)

Mystical Rose: Since antiquity the rose was considered a symbol of mystery, for early Christians the rose is a visual expression for paradise (Catacombs of Callixtus, 3rd century) but also for martyrdom (Cyprian, Ep. 10). The Marian interpretation of this symbol dates to the 5th century (Sedulius Caelius). He is probably the first to call Mary a “rose among thorns” (Carmen paschale II, 28-31). Theophanes Graptos (Monk and metropolite of Nikaia, +845) uses the same symbolism to express Mary’s purity and the fragrance of her grace (Oktoechos, Friday of the sixth week). Frequent Marian references to rose and rosebush were made in medieval times with special reference to Isaiah 11,1 (“…a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse / and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”). This typology is very old. We find it in Tertullian (Adv. Judaeos, 9) and Ambrosius (Exp. Gr. Luc. II, 24). For these authors the root is a reference to the davidic genealogy, the sprout (virga, bush) is Mary, and Christ is the flower (rose). Medieval authors had a second source for their use of mystical rose: the verse from Sir. 24, 14 (“like a palm tree in Engedi, like a rosebush in Jericho”) which makes reference to God graced fertility and growth, again a reference to the mysterious generation of Christ from the womb of Mary. It is based on these two traditions that the expression rosa mystica was coined by the author of the Litanies of Loreto, and subsequently used in hymns (“Es ist ein Ros…”) and art (center of the labyrinth of Chartres).

2. STELLA MATUTINA (Morning Star)

Stella matutina or morning star is first used in the Padua version of the Litanies of Loreto (14th century; Capitolare B63). In a Parisian manuscript of the 12th 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 S. 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).

2b. STELLA MARIS (Star of the Sea)Star symbolisms on behalf of Mary refer to two types of stars:

a) six-pointed stars indicate Mary’s Davidic origins and Jewish character;
b) stars with eight radiating points highlight Mary’s role in salvation as helper in the “restitutio perfectionis” (8=perfection) or “reparatrix parentum et totius orbis.”
More generally (independently from the number of radiating points), the star symbolism may be used to articulate one or all of the following characteristics of Mary:

a) Her privileges, in particular, her mission as Mother of the Redeemer, or her holiness (full of grace);
b) Her anticipatory or demonstrative role (forerunner, announcer …) with regard to Christ [“she is the dawn, Christ the Rising Sun”] and the Trinity;
c) Her role as luminous and enlightening.
The biblical and/or theological foundation of this title (Mary, Star of the Sea) may be based on 1 Kings 18:41-45. This text refers to a little cloud appearing above the sea as a sign of hope, implying that rain will come and free the land from drought. The little cloud (small as a man’s hand) seen from Mt. Carmel is believed to be the “Star of the Sea” and Mary, thus, the sign of hope which announces freedom and renewal. The Carmelites built a church on Mt. Carmel and gave it the title “Stella Maris.”

The origin of the expression “Stella maris” is commonly attributed to St. Jerome (d. 420). However, Jerome called Mary “stilla maris,” meaning a drop of the sea. Perhaps a copyist transcribed this as “Stella maris.” Other authors recording the same Marian symbol include: Isidore of Seville (d. 636); Alcuin (d. 804); and Rhabanus Maurus (d. 856).

An explicit reference occurs in Paschasius Radbertus (d. 865):

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.
Hincmar of Reims (d. 882) spoke of Mary as “a star of the sea assumed into the heavens.”

There are also some ancient Marian hymns related to the title: “Ave Maria Stella” (8th-9th century); and “Alma Redemptoris Mater” (by Hermann of Reichenau, 11th century).

Very important for this title is the following twelfth-century prayer from St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

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.

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