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 Janua Coeli - Stella Matutina 
The Church in giving to Mary the beautiful title of consolation and hope, “Gate of
Heaven,” does not thereby assign to her the attributes pertaining to God alone, of whom St. Paul
says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:5).
It does, however, urge us to place ourselves under Mary’s protection, thus to obtain
entrance into eternal happiness. For did she not participate in the great act by which heaven was
reopened for us after it had been closed in Eden? And did God not deign to come down to earth
through her, to dwell in her womb, and thus to become our Redeemer?
Let us then consider these two titles, so inseparably connected by the Church, Janua
Coeli and Stella Matutina, both symbolic of our Mother’s privileges as well as of her unending
vigil over her children exiled on earth. Heaven, as we well know, is the object of our hopes, the
term of our struggles, the commencement of our happiness, as it is the goal of our most earnest
efforts.
Its promise sustains and encourages these efforts, its hope fulfills all our desires. Here is
indeed the gate of heaven, but St. Augustine says, “Unless we see it through Mary and enter
through her, we shall never know its joys, never see God face to face.”
Here is indeed light to guide us, but our sight is still imperfect unless we trust all to her
love. Here is the source of our true power — it is that divine Power dwelling with us in our
tabernacles, living on our altars, coming to us in humble love in daily Holy Communion. Each
one of us, through Mary’s intercession, may possess Him really and actually in our mortal
bodies, may gaze upon Him with mortal eyes.
And yet we can lose Him. In heaven alone will we see His unveiled majesty face to face,
as the benediction of our souls, and love Him with the unrestrained ardor of hearts free from
mortal bonds, without fear of loss. What hope this arouses in us, my dear sisters!
And yet we do not equal the saints in courage and generosity. Only faintly can we
estimate the joys of heaven, for St. Paul says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart
of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). In view of these
divine promises, we should ask ourselves, even of the peace and happiness of religious life,
“Quid hoc ad aeternitatem?” (What is this to eternity?)
This does not suggest that things good and true and noble on earth should be contemned,
but rather that they should be used and honored in the light of eternity. We must ever attend to
the “great affair of salvation”. All depends on that, for at death it will be too late to adjust our
accounts. “If a tree falls to the south or to the north,” says the Holy Spirit in Ecclesiastes, “in
what place where the tree falls, there it will lie” (Eccles 11:3).
We are here in this land of exile, far from our native country voyagers on the sea of life,
ever in danger of shipwreck.
Often on this restless ocean we find ourselves in conflict with the powers of the world,
our ship under enemy attacks from all sides, and often seemingly without pilot or rudder.
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True, the lot of religious is more fortunate in this regard than that of ordinary Christians.
Our voyage is less perilous, for religion is, as it were, a harbor sheltered from the violent
tempests and surging billows of an angry sea. The regular life removes many of the occasions of
failure, but it is not the end, nor even the assurance of salvation, unless we are faithful to the
common life. At no time until death is there complete assurance.
For this port of religious life is definitely not the final term of the voyage or the harbor of
rest. There is still need of a further journey into the land of promise. Often frail vessels, that have
survived heavy tempests on the open sea of the world, yet suffer shipwreck at the very entrance
to the harbor.
Let us never forget this: a port has its own dangers, even as have the high seas. Indeed,
one has most need of skillful steering in the shallow waters near the port. Hence a special pilot
who can guide larger vessels through the narrow harbor channels usually comes aboard at this
point.
So, too, in religion: as we approach the final port of our desires, we have greater need of
a Pilot. For the voyager there is danger everywhere at sea — from water and air, the very
elements that carry him, from hidden reefs and surging waves and unforeseen accidents. So of
the voyage of religious life: in times of prayer, meditation, office, labor, even when all seems
serene, we must watch for hidden dangers.
It is here that St. Bernard tells us, look upward, look to the Star, call on Mary!” She is the
Morning Star bringing hope to those who enter the harbor with their eyes on her clear shining. So
shall she guide us over the high seas of life straight into the port of heaven.
As Stella Matutina she appeared on the horizon of idolatrous humanity, to shine on the
darkness of life, to light up the limbo of death, to announce the approach of the Sun of Justice,
Jesus Christ, to foretell that happy day when the world would be raised from the depths of sin
and degradation by the divine act of redemption.
Still today, my dear sisters, is not this Star our own special gage of hope and salvation?
“Look to Mary,” says St. Bernard, “when engulfed by misfortunes; when lost amid the shadows
of the world, look to the clear shining of this Morning Star!”
Let us, then, look to her as the pledge of our day of salvation and sanctity, and in the light
of her radiance, as St. Bernard bids us, follow her to eternal happiness. Not only will she conduct
us to that port of salvation, but she will herself open it to us.
Heaven has been compared to a city set on a mountain, impregnable behind towered
walls. Mary, according to the fathers of the Church, is the only sure means whereby we can
penetrate that city.
An ardent desire for safety lives in every human heart; yes, but we need a guide on the
way thither. How frightening are the words of the Son of God, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the
gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many”
(Matt 7:13).
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When we reflect on the standards that a good and just God sets up for His saints, and then
consider our faults and failings; when we recall the uncertainties of the way, the multitudes of
graces we have received, far more, perhaps than many of the saints: we are filled with alarm at
the magnitude of our debt to Jesus Christ, the just Judge. This, then, is the time to look to Mary.
We have her always. To her care we can entrust even our discouragements.
In another sense, too, Mary is our Janua Coeli. For if our desires and prayers enter
heaven, if they reach the throne of God, it is Mary who gathers them there. On that fatal day of
their fall, heaven was closed to our first parents and their posterity.
For four thousand years the holy patriarchs and the just of the Old Testament never
ceased, by weeping, penance and prayer, to knock for entrance. Even from the depths of limbo
they called in hope on her whom they foreknew by prophecy to be destined to crush the serpent’s
head.
St. Augustine beautifully places these words in their mouths: “O Mary, appearing at last
as gate of eternity, lead us, your children, with you. This is the command you can give, for who
can close what you have opened?”
Understand well, my dear sisters, what the Church wishes to say to you when she
addresses Mary as Gate of Heaven. It is that Mary will intercede for us with her Son who said,
“Knock and it will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7).
If in devotion and sincere affection, we knock at the gate of Mary’s Immaculate Heart,
heaven will be opened to our prayers. So too, out of the darkness of idolatry, Jesus Christ arose
as the Sun of Justice, enveloping all things in the healing of salvation.
This true Sun encourages development and growth in virtue, just as the natural sun
fosters vegetation on the earth. But announcing the rise of this Sun, Mary, the true Morning Star,
rose from the shadowed depths of the Old Testament at the dawn of redemption. Unperceived at
first, in the morning dimness, she lived in obscurity in the temple, practicing those humble
virtues that enhanced her blessedness.
Her humility and virginity attracted the love of the All-High God, and at the day of
redemption the Sun of Justice completely absorbed into His life the clear shining of the Morning
Star. Henceforth her life was His. Let us ask her anew today to teach us the secret of her high
sanctity, to guide us into heaven’s port, the object of all our hopes and prayers!
Janua Coeli, Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis:
Gate of Heaven, Star of the Sea, pray for us!
Gillet, Louis Florent. “Janua Coeli, Stella Matutina” Immaculata: Thoughts on Mary’s Litany.
Villa Maria, West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1945. 190-194.
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