08 September 2016

Mary, the true Lucifer

In our post-Enlightenment day when everything is viewed in black and white, as either/or instead of both/and, it may surprise some of the faithful to learn that the Doctor of the Gospels referred to Mary as the true Lucifer.

The name of title of Lucifer is generally taken to refer to the Evil One, to Satan, the one who scatters. The Lucifer is a Latin composite mean "light-bearer." It is applied to the prince of this world because he is said to have been the most beautiful of all of the angels. Historically, however, the title of Lucifer has also been applied to others.

Saint Anthony of Padua says that because "the birth of the blessed Virgin gave light to a world covered by darkness and the shadow of death," this verse can rightly be applied to her: "Like the morning star among the clouds" (Sirach 50:6).

In his first sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Anthony continues, saying:
The morning star is called Lucifer, because it shines more brightly among all the other stars, with what is properly called 'radiance'. Lucifer, going before the sun and heralding the morning, scatters the shades of night with the brightness of its light. The true morning star, or Lucifer, is blessed Mary; who, born in the midst of a cloud, put to flight the shadowy cloud, and in the morning of grace heralded the sun of justice to those who sat in darkness (2).
He summarizes all of this at the end of his sermon, saying simply, "She is called 'light,' because she scatters the darkness" (4).

Another of the early Franciscans, Saint Bonaventure, explains what it means to call Mary the morning star:
Her nature was made in a special way by God; Psalm 73:16: "You have made the morning light and the sun," that is, the Virgin and her Child. The morning light is mentioned before the sun, even though the dawn is created by the sun, the Virgin in time preceded her Child even though she was created by him; Psalm 86:5 says: "A man is born in her and the Highest himself has founded her;" Sirach 24:12: "He that made me, rested in my tabernacle." Colors are not apparent before dawn; so before the Virgin neither graces nor virtues were apparent but it was said: "O Lord, your mercy is in heaven" [Psalm 35:6] (Sermon 6 on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin).
As the first light of day precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary precedes the coming of her Son.

In addition to calling her the Morning Star and the true Lucifer, Saint Anthony refers to Mary as "the full moon" (cf. Isaiah 30:26) because "she is perfect in every way." He explains: "The half-moon is imperfect, having markings and horns; but the glorious Virgin had no spot in her birth, because she was sanctified in her mother's womb and guarded by angels; and no horns of pride in her days, so that she shines fully and perfectly."

As we celebrate, then, this day of Mary's birth, let us pray with Saint Anthony:
We ask you then, our Lady, that as you are the morning star, you may by your splendor drive away the cloud of the devil's suggestions which covers the earth of our minds. Do you, who are the full moon, fill our emptiness and scatter the darkness of our sins, so that we may be able to come to the fullness of eternal life, to the light of unending glory. May he grant this, who brought you forth to be our light, who made you to be born on this day, that he might be born of you. To him be honor and glory for ever and ever.

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