August 21, 2017

Why It is Proper to Call Mary Queen

For those familiar with monarchy like the kind predominate in Europe, the idea that the Blessed Virgin 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 have long accorded to her the solemn 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. That advice is most remarkable for its 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 often. The kings in question always listen. 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.

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)
The Popes on the Queenship of Mary

The queenship of Mary is an ancient devotion long held by the Christian Church. The establishment of a particular day to celebrate Mary’s queenship, however, is a recent establishment. Pope Pius XII created the feast in 1954, and originally placed it on May 31, at the end of the month dedicated to Mary. “On that occasion he declared, “Mary is Queen more than any other creature for the elevation of her soul and for the excellence of gifts received. She never ceases to bestow all the treasures of her love and of her care on humanity.”

Pope Paul VI moved the feast to Aug. 22, so that it would fall eight days after the Solemnity of the Assumption to emphasize the close relationship between the royalty of Mary and her glorification in soul and body next to her Son in heaven. In his Apostolic Exhortation for the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Marialis Cultus, the Holy Father wrote:
The solemnity of August 15 celebrates the glorious Assumption of Mary into heaven. It is a feast of her destiny of fullness and blessedness, of the glorification of her immaculate soul and of her virginal body, of her perfect configuration to the Risen Christ, a feast that sets before the eyes of the Church and of all mankind the image and the consoling proof of the fulfillment of their final hope, namely, that this full glorification is the destiny of all those whom Christ has made His brothers, having "flesh and blood in common with them" (Heb. 2:14; cf. Gal. 4:4). The Solemnity of the Assumption is prolonged in the celebration of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which occurs seven days later. On this occasion we contemplate her who, seated beside the King of ages, shines forth as Queen and intercedes as Mother. [18]
Pope Benedict XVI, reflecting on the queenship of Mary taught she is “queen in the service of God to humanity, …queen of the love that lives the gift of self to God (so as) to enter into the plan of salvation of man. …It is the queenship of Mary that we should turn to throughout life, so that from her Son we may receive every grace and mercy necessary for our journey along the roads of the world. To [Christ] who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary.”

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 our 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 the Mother of us all, that she intercede for us always.

This article from June 2016 has been updated and expanded. It was originally posted as “Why is Mary Called Queen of Heaven & Earth?”

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