On October 11, 1954, Pope Pius XII promulgated an encyclical, Ad Coeli Reginam, in which he established the feast of the Queenship of Mary. He indicated: “The purpose of the Feast is that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and motherly sovereignty of her who bore God in her womb.” The Feast of Mary as Queen of heaven and earth was originally celebrated on May 31, the last day of the Marian month but was later changed to August 22, the octave of the Assumption of Mary to emphasize the connection between the two feasts.
As Americans, we do not easily cuddle up to the concept of “Queen”. When I think of queens, I think of historical descriptions of Queen Elizabeth I and pictures of Queen Victoria. In both cases, I would not want to meet either of them in a dark alley, at least from my historical idea of them. A great many men and women lost either their lives or their careers after having walked into these great ladies’ shadows.
When Pope Pius XII asked us to think of the Blessed Mother as our Queen, I need to shake my mind free from preconceived notions of this particular royalty. The best way to do so is to turn to the Scriptures for today. Here, we find our way to the Holy Father’s understanding of this wonderful title for Mary.
In Isaiah, we find the great messianic prophecy “…a child is born to us, a son is given…” His royal mission flowing from the throne of David, his ancestor will be to bring light to dispel the darkness, joy and happiness to dispel gloom and sadness, freedom and renewed spirit to overcome oppression and down heartedness once and for always. His reign will never end. Isaiah enlivens the hope that the Davidic dynasty will be restored with all of its power, guidance, compassion and justice. It helps for us to know that in the Davidic royal tradition, the mother of the King holds a special place of honor and was known as the Queen Mother of Israel. Because her son was King, she held a place of honor and influence at the throne of her son. In 1 Kings 2 : 20, we see Solomon speaking to his mother Bathsheba who is sitting on the right side of his throne and saying to his mother, make your request, I cannot refuse you anything.
Now we are coming closer to seeing how it is that Mary is our Queen. Our gospel strengthens and expands our understanding beautifully. This humble, devoted young woman discovers through the angel Gabriel that her son will be given the throne of David his Father and he will rule over all forever. If she consents, she will bear this King in her womb. She will give birth to the “Son of God” who will be King forever.
She, as the Queen Mother will share in His kingship and, following the example of her Son’s royal oversight over all with salvation, love, guidance, justice, compassion and protection, she will share in that role as Queen over all of heaven and earth, as Queen over our hearts.
If I desired to have a more recent image to help me think about the idea of Mary, my Queen, perhaps I would spend a moment thinking back to the beloved late Queen “Mum”, mother of Queen Elizabeth II. She always appeared to me to be a kindly, caring, happy mother whose only concern in her very senior years was the welfare of all the nation and the happiness of her children. That did not appear to be an easy task amidst all of the rules, traditions and etiquettes of the British royal family. Mary, our Mother and our Queen, has an easier time of it for us. She watches over us, has a powerful influence with her Son as she intercedes for us, and wishes for us only happiness and peace in union with her Son and with her, on earth and in heaven.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.