Meaning of the Twelve Stars of Revelation

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Do the twelve stars in Rev. 12.1 refer to the twelve apostles?

A: The Marian interpretation of Rev. 12.1 indeed allows for the suggested interpretation (see: Laurentin, Lyonnet, Deiss, Koehler, Feuillet relating this passage to the Daughter of Zion). Mary is the archetypal symbol of the Woman who is Israel (original) and the Church (developed). As archetype of the Church she is a sign that the Church is surrounded by God's power and protection ("Clothed with the Sun"). She is in continuity with the original people of God but stands also for the renewed people of God, the Church. Here is where the star symbol applies. The twelve stars above her head apply to both the twelve patriarchs of the tribes of Israel (original people of God), and the twelve apostles (renewed people of God). Of course, this symbolism has been interpreted in different and more subjective ways, especially for various devotional forms. For example, the devotion of the twelve stars (Baroque period) where each one of the stars symbolizes a special charism or privilege of Mary. It is legitimate to go a step further and read this image of Rev. 12.1 as Queen of Heaven, since Mary is (for example, according to the Litany of Loreto) Queen of both Patriarchs and Apostles. She is also in Rev. 12.1 the image of the eschatological Church or heavenly Jerusalem.

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