Commentary on the “Ave Maris Stella”

My friend sent me this wonderful article and I want to share this with you all:

[A true friend of mine, whom I’ve known for just over a year, gave me a present, in true Hobbit form, at her birthday party this month. The present, a sixty-year-old book, is a 1948 reprint of a 1914 edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, printed by E.J. Dwyer, an Australian publisher. Not only does it have the all the prayers of the Little Office, it contains something I had never seen before, a commentary on the prayers themselves. She knew that I would greatly appreciate this book, and I am truly grateful that she gave me this book. The commentary below is on the ancient and beautiful hymn to Our Lady (and one of my personal favorites), the Ave Maris Stella, and it is taken from the Mirror of Our Lady, a 15th century commentary on the Office written by Dr. Thomas Gascoigne of Oxford University for the Sisters of Sion, who belonged to the Brigittine Order.]

Ave, maris stella,
Dei Mater alma.
Atque semper Virgo,
Felix caeli porta.

“I. ‘Ave, Star of ocean. This hymn hath seven verses. In the first verse ye praise our Lady of four things. One is that she is called the Star of the Sea; for as that is comfortable to shipman, so is our Lady comfort to all that are in bitterness of tribulation or temptation in the sea of this world; and therefore her name Maria is as much to say as Star of the sea; and so Ave Maria and Ave Maris stella is all one. The second is that she is Mother of God. The third is that she is Ever-Virgin. The fourth is that she is the Gate of heaven. Her Son calleth Himself in His Gospel the Door, for as a man may not well come into a house but by the door, nor to the door but by the gate, so may none come into heaven but by our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, the Door, nor to our Lord Jesus Christ but by our Lady, that is, the Gate.'”

Sumens illud Ave,
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pace,
Mutans Hevae nomen.

“2. ‘In the second verse ye praise our Lady for two things, and one ye ask of her. First ye thank her for that she assented to the greeting of Gabriel; for thereby began our health, as our perdition began by the assent of Eve to the fiend. The second, because she hath turned the woe that Eva brought us into joy; and so she hath change her name Eva into Ave, for Eva spelled backwards maketh Ave, and Eva is as much to say as woe, and Ave is a word of joy. Then ye ask of her stability of peace.'”

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen caecis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

“3. ‘In the third verse ye ask of her four things that man needeth to have help in after he is fallen to sin, for by sin he falleth in to four great mischiefs. One is that he is so bound therein that he may not of himself come out thereof; and as a man may yield himself bound to a lord, but he may not be free again after when he will, right so is it of man that maketh himself thrall to the fiend by deadly sin; and therefore ye pray our Lady that she will loose the bonds of sinners and make them free. Another mischief is, that when a man is fallen into deadly sin, the fiend blindeth him so in his sin that he can neither see the peril that he standeth in, nor how to get him help of deliverance; and therefore in this ye ask our Lady’s help. The third mischief is the great vengeance that man deserveth by sin, both temporal and everlasting; and the fourth is the loss of all goods of grace and glory. And therefore against all these four mischiefs ye pray to our Lady, and say: Break the captive’s fetters, for the first; Light to blind restoring, for the second; All our ill expelling, for the third; Every bliss impore, for the fourth.'”

Monstra te esse Matrem,
Sumat per te preces,
Qui pro nobis natus,
Tulit esse tuus.

“4. ‘In the fourth ye pray her to show herself a Mother to our Lord and to the wretched. As a mother tendereth her child in all manner of peril and disease that he is in, so she vouchsafes to show motherly tenderness to us in all our needs, bodily and ghostly. And as a mother may get from her son what she will reasonably desire of him, so she vouchsafes to speed our errands before our Lord, that it may appear well that she is His Mother.'”

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos
Mites fac et castos.

“5. ‘In the fifth verse ye praise her in two virtues that is, in maidenhood and mildness; and ye ask of her these virtues according to the same — that is, deliverance from sin; mildness; and chastity.'”

Vitam presta puram,
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Jesum,
Semper collaetemur.

“6. ‘In the sixth verse ye ask of her three things. The first is clean life; the second is true continuance therein unto the end, that ye may then have true passage; and the third is endless joy in the sight and beholding of God.'”

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus. Amen.

“7. ‘In the seventh verse ye praise the Blessed Trinity.'”

[Listen to the Gregorian chant of this hymn at Ave Maris Stella, as sung by two soloists from the choir of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. I couldn’t find a satisfactory version of it done by a men’s schola, so this version suffices. For the English translation, see Latin words and English translation of the words of Ave Maris Stella]

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