“Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route… Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched His tent among us.” [Pope Benedict XVI, Spe salvi (“On Christian hope”), 49]
The Star of Hope
The Magi followed the star of Bethlehem, but Mary was the true Star of Hope. Throughout the journey of life, she always remained:
H: humble, always giving glory to God and not herself.;
O: obedient, hearing the will of God and doing it willingly;
P: prayerful, always pondering the Word of God in her heart, discerning God’s will, and interceding for others;
E: evangelising, always pointing others to Christ and emulating His love and self-sacrifice.
Through Mary, “Hope came into the world…He comes into the world and gives us the strength to walk with Him… Hope is never still; hope is always journeying, and it makes us journey. This hope, which the Child of Bethlehem gives us, offers a destination, a sure, ongoing goal, the salvation of mankind, blessedness to those who trust in a merciful God.” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 21 Dec 2016)
The Gate of Heaven
There is a door in one corner of CHIJMES in Singapore where, in the not-too-distant past, unwanted infants were left abandoned at the doorstep of the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in Victoria Street. It is plain, small and inconspicuous, but all children who crossed its threshold were reborn into a new life. It was called the Gate of Hope.
During Advent, the Church sings the Marian hymn Alma Redemptoris Mater as she prepares for the coming of Christ. Translated from Latin, the first few lines read:
“O loving Mother of our Redeemer, Gate of Heaven, Star of the Sea,
Hasten to aid thy fallen people who strive to rise once more…”
So just like that same little door in CHIJMES, Mary opened the door to new life and the hope of heaven to all of us sinners through her “yes” to God at the Annunciation. Yet, although her life was filled with joy and wonder, it was one of pain and suffering too. Her journey did not stop with the Adoration of the Magi at Bethlehem. It continued to Egypt, back to Nazareth, Jerusalem, Calvary, Ephesus and beyond, to the ultimate destination of all human creatures, heaven.
As we continue our journey of life in the New Year, Pope Benedict XVI’s preaching during his homily on the First Vespers of New Year’s Eve, 2009, still rings true:
“In our times, marked by uncertainty and concern for the future, it is necessary to experience the living presence of Christ. It is Mary, Star of Hope, who leads us to Him….The motherly presence of Mary assures us that God never abandons us if we entrust ourselves to Him and follow His teachings. Therefore, while we take our leave of [the old year] and prepare to welcome [the New Year], let us present to Mary our expectations and hopes, as well as our fears and the difficulties that dwell in our hearts, with filial affection and trust.
“She the Virgin Mother, offers us the Child who lies in the manger as our sure hope. Full of trust, we shall then be able to sing at the end of the Te Deum: ‘In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum — In you, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain.’
“Yes, Lord, in you we hope, today and forever; you are our hope. Amen!”