Let’s play a quick game. I will mention a nickname, and you tell me to whom it refers. Let’s start. In the comics world, who is the caped crusader? In Harry Potter, who is he who must not be named? In literature, who are the Star-crossed-lovers? In the Game of Thrones, who is the Mother of Dragons; the King Slayer; the imp?
Did you get them all? The answers come after this article.
The point of the game was to show us how we attach nicknames to people based on how we remember them. In Storytelling, it is a literary device meant to help us know the character quickly by connecting a personal quality. God himself used this to help us recognize the identity of his promised Messiah through the prophets. Daniel called the Messiah, Son of Man, telling us that Christ is human. Isaiah said the Messiah would be named Emmanuel, which means “God with us” that indicates Christ is divine. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God” when he saw Christ. But what does that mean?
To us, today, it might have little significance; especially if we hear or read it very often. But to a first-century Jew, the imagery was vivid. See, during the time of Christ, when one wanted to be forgiven of sins, he or she would bring a sin offering to the temple. Usually, it is a lamb. There, a priest would slay it, spill its blood, and burn the body on a pyre so the wonderful smell of roasting fat will rise to heaven as a prayer. So when John the Baptist refers to Jesus as Lamb of God, he is indicating that Christ is the victim that God gave to humankind, whose blood will be spilled for the expiation of our sins.
If Scripture does this for Christ, the Church also does this for Mary in the form of titles. In this way, the Church acts like the person at the door of a grand banquet who announces people. “The Duke of Wellington… The Dutchess of York,” for example. For Mary, she is announced as “Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, Virgin of Virgins” and so on. If you have been praying the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary after saying the rosary, you would be familiar with her titles.
Sadly, even as Catholics like me, we don’t know what some of the titles mean. For example, “Mystical Rose, Tower of David, Tower of Ivory, House of Gold... Morning Star.” What is that? The reason for this is years of language and cultural evolution have obscured the titles so that we, today, don’t know what they refer to – just like the title of Christ, Lamb of God. This is tragic because we are meant to know Mary through her titles. Then by knowing her, we get to emulate her virtues and love for Christ.
The book A Sky Full of Stars peels back the layers of language and culture so that we meet Mary unobstructed, the way the Church presents her. The title refers to Mary’s cloak because artists usually color it blue, and sometimes decorated with stars. But why is that so? Why did artists think of making the cloak of Mary the sky? Why are the ceilings of some churches blue bedecked with stars? The book explains that in the title, Refuge of Sinners. It has to do with a very remarkable Cistercian story. It is also tied up with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe too.
If you want to know why Mary is depicted with her feet crushing a serpent’s head, you can read that in Virgin Most Venerable. If you want to know how her title Gate of Heaven is linked the dogma of her Perpetual Virginity, it is in the book too. It will give you an image of who Our Lady is, and give you a mental peg while praying the Litany. More importantly, you get to meet Mary the way she is, and might fall in love with her all over again.
The book is endorsed by Bishop Socrates Villegas:
A Sky Full of Stars must be an obligatory reference material for religion teachers and seminarians. It helps the reader to see the Virgin Mary within the perspective of sound biblical theology and solid Catholic tradition... [and is] also easy to understand.
Learn more about Mary in the book A Sky Full of Stars, where each title of the Litany is explained to understand Mary. Readers in the Philippines may get the paperback version here. Those in the USA can get the Kindle or paperback version here. Those in other countries can check the closest country where it is available here.
Joby finished Theology courses from the University of Notre Dame. He is a contributing writer at www.catholic365.com, and teaches in the De La Salle College of St. Benilde where he engages students in conversations about religion, pop-culture, and food.
Whether or not you are new to the Catholic Church, or struggling, or lapsed, or dynamically involved, this book will enlighten you with the essentials of the Faith that have been handed down to us by the apostles.
100 Things Every Catholic Should Know covers what it is we believe in the Creed, how grace configures us to Christ in the sacraments, how we worship in the liturgy, how we connect to God in prayer, how Mary and the saints fit in in all of this, and how we are part of Christ’s Mystical Body – the Church.
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