Second Article on the hidden meanings of Our Lady’s titles in the litany of the
Singular Vessel of Devotion: The word devotion as used in this title exceeds the narrow meaning of devotional practice and refers to total dedication and fidelity in the service of God. Mary’s profession of faith, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord...,” most adequately expresses the meaning of this invocation. She was totally dedicated to her Son. Total dedication has not only the meaning of service, it refers primarily to openness and receptivity of God’s will and grace. Devotion in its true sense means a cheerful promptness and alacrity in all that relates to God’s service, in all the duties of religion, and in all the duties of life, considered as the expression of God’s Will in our regard. In Mary, we at once see devotion in its true light. God, Her Divine Son, was the one end and aim of her life. She lived simply and wholly for His service. Her heart was a burning thurible from which there ever ascended as an incense of sweetest fragrance, holy desires, acts of love, and praise and thanksgiving.
Mystical Rose: The rose is regarded as the queen of flowers. Goodness and holiness flower in the saints. Mary, the queen of saints, can be called then the “Mystical Rose.” As the rose is considered the queen of flowers, so Mary is invoked as Queen of All Saints. As described by sacred writers, she is the “mystical rose without thorn”, the “rose of paradise”, and the “rose bringing salvation to all who call upon her”.
Tower of David: This is a biblical phrase from Song of Songs 4:4 “Your neck is the Tower of Dav id, a display of trophies, a thousand bucklers hang on it, all of them worn by heroes of war”.
It speaks of the love of the king towards a woman which is an analogy of God’s love for human soul. The verse is not only praising the woman’s physical beauty but also the inner beauty of her heart. She is likened to a Tower of David on which hang the trophies of war and the different shields of the soldiers and generals. The tower is the manifestation of the virtues and glories of the Lord found among the saints who are the soldiers of Christ. Mary is the Tower of David because being full of grace and highly favored by God, the beloved of God [cf. Lk 1:28] she is also blessed with manifold virtues.
Tower of Ivory: This is a symbol of purity. It means Mary is pure in body and soul; and because of that, she is most beloved by God: “Your neck is like an ivory tower”. (Song of Solomon 7:4). Ivory is known for being precious and pearly white. It signifies God’s love for Mary as the highly favored one and the grace of being immaculate as She is protected by God the Father from the poison of Satan [cf. Gen 3:15].
Mary is called the Tower of Ivory, to suggest to us, by the brightness, purity, and exquisiteness of that material, how transcendent is the loveliness and the gentleness of the Mother of God.
House of Gold: This is an ancient biblical symbol related to the temple of God in Jerusalem, which God Himself commanded to be covered with gold so that it would be worthy to be His dwelling place on earth.
Chapters 6 and 7 in First Kings describe the temple that Solomon built. The author writes that the entire temple was overlaid with gold! (6:22) So, too, the altar and many of the furnishings were of gold (7:48-50). Mary was the temple of God; her womb “housed” the Lord. She is the “House of Gold.”
The title denotes Mary’s personal perfection and her privilege of divine motherhood. She was the house wherein God dwelt during nine months in her womb, and for his sake she was a house of gold, adorned by the Creator with the most precious virtues.
Ark of the Covenant: In Chapters 25 and 40 of Exodus there is a description of the Ark of the Covenant. It was a symbol of God’s presence to Israel. And in the ark were placed the Commandments of the Law—God’s covenant with Israel. Mary was the “Ark of the Covenant” in the sense that her womb contained the maker of the Law; she made God present to mankind in the incarnation of the Son.
The Marian interpretation of the Ark of the Covenant has been known since the Council of Ephesus. Several analogies can be established between Mary and the Ark of the Covenant: the Ark was the throne of God, Mary is the true “Christophora”; the Ark contained the tables of the law, Mary's womb bore the one who is the law of the new covenant; the Ark was precious and beautiful, made in gold, Mary's soul is adorned with the beauty of her virtues; the Ark found a place in the inner “sanctum” of the Temple, Mary was assumed into heaven.
Gate of Heaven: This refers to the fact that Jesus passed through the womb of Mary. So, Mary is like the Gate of Heaven that gives us the Messiah and the King of all.
Mary is thus called the Gate of Heaven, because it was through her that our Lord passed from heaven to earth. The Prophet Ezekiel, prophesying of Mary, says, “This gate shall be shut. It shall not be opened and no man shall pass through it: because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it. And it shall be shut for the Prince. The Prince Himself shall sit in it...” (Ezekiel 44, 2-3).
Morning Star: This is the star which precedes the rising of the Sun just as Mary preceded the coming of the Son of God. And just as the Morning Star precedes the sun, announcing the dawn of day, so the Blessed Virgin Mary preceded Christ the Son of Justice, announcing the day of salvation. Through Her coming, the whole world was enlightened. Mary was truly the bright Morning Star of that blissful day when the world saw the divine sun of its redemption arise upon it.
Overall then, we can see that the titles given to Our Lady in her Litany are not mere conventional pieties, but quite often have a deep biblical and symbolic meaning. By meditating on them we can deepen our knowledge of and love for the Blessed Virgin.
Prof Michael Ogunu is the National President of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Nigeria.
Copyright © Professor Michael Ogunu 2015
Version: 10th April 2015