June 13, 2016

Why is Mary Called Queen of Heaven & Earth?

Madonna & Child
For those familiar with monarchy like those in Europe, the idea that Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth might seem odd. In Western monarchies, the king and queen are typically husband and wife. By this standard, Mary the Mother of God would have no claim to such a designation. That Catholics accord to her the title "Queen" has even prompted Protestant accusations that Catholics divinize the Mother of Christ.

In ancient Middle Eastern monarchies, kings had numerous wives as well as concubines. The greatest kings of the Davidic Kingdom were no exception. The Bible names eight wives of King David and acknowledges many more – although the exact number is not known. 1st Kings 11:1-3 indicates King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Amid such rampant polygamy, to bestow upon a wife the honor of being queen would doubtless cause envy, disappointment and recrimination among those in the royal harem not chosen.

Israel's kings had many wives, but only one mother. It was she who served as queen. Scriptural and non scriptural sources attest that the Queen Mother was a fixed office, second only to the king in prestige. While her status evoked respect, the Queen Mother had little power, apart from interceding on behalf of others with the king, to whom she was subject.

The Queen Mother was also a trusted advisor. She alone could appeal to the sovereign's heart in a uniquely privileged manner. Then as now, many advisors exploited their positions for personal advancement and gain. On account of her familial relationship, the Queen Mother was rarely so persuaded. Queen Mothers interceed and advise numerous times in the Bible.

Chapter 31 in the Book of Proverbs briefly mentions a King Lemuel. The opening verse explains that Lemuel's mother imparted her wisdom to him as only a mother could do. The advice that follows is remarkable for a ruler of the day. It reads in part:
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to desire strong drink;
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
[ ... ]
Open your mouth in behalf of the dumb,
and for the rights of the destitute;
Open your mouth, decree what is just,
defend the needy and poor!
Elsewhere in the Old Testament, Queen Mothers intercede with their sons. The kings in question always listen. For example, in the first 1st Book of Kings, Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon intercedes with her son in advocating for Adonijah:
Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. She said, 'There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.' The king said to her, 'Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.' (1 Kings 2:19-20)
Two things are evident from this passage: 1.) Solomon shows Bathsheba honor and deference. 2.) Bathsheba has standing before the King.

Reading further we see that Bathsheba's request (that Adonijah be given Solomon's concubine as his wife) is rejected. In ancient times, taking the king's concubine as your wife was an unequivocal claim on the throne. Solomon's reaction confirms this, "And why do you ask that Abishag the Shunamite be given to Adonijah? Ask the kingship for him as well, for he is my older brother!" (1 Kings 2:22)

Bathsheba's intercession is anything but innocuous. It is noteworthy that King Solomon does not grant her request. Things go worse for Adonijah who is killed by Benaiah that very day at Solomon's command.

Mary, the Mother of Christ the King

Jesus is the "Son of David", predicted by centuries of prophecy. The Kingdom proclaimed by Christ is a restoration of the Davidic Kingdom. The Kingdom of God in its ecclesiastical dimension is the Church on earth. More broadly, the Kingdom of God is the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant, awaiting fulfillment in the eternal wedding feast between Christ and the Church following Our Lord's Second Coming.

Mary's importance in bearing, raising and safeguarding Our Savior is undeniable. She also interceded with her Son on behalf of the newly married couple during the wedding at Cana, prompting Jesus' first miracle. Vatican II's Lumen Gentium eloquently expresses the Blessed Virgin Mary's unique role in the mystery of Christ and the Church:
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God... (Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII)
Mary is the Mother of Christ, the "Son of David", King of the Universe. She is rightfully and by heavenly decree the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Our Lady intercedes unceasingly on our behalf with God. In the divine economy of salvation, she has appeared in apparitions to various individuals on earth with messages of grace, warning and repentance. In her glorified body experiencing Beatitude, Mary prefigures our ultimate end, if we persevere in love. Let us pray to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she may intercede before her Son for our salvation, and that of the whole world.

No comments :