August 22: Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Memorial; Liturgical Color: White


<<<      The mother of a king is a queen who receives honor in her son’s realm      >>>

Mary is both a queen and a mother, but she is more mother than queen. Mary’s Queenship and “mothership,” or motherhood, spark to life simultaneously. In the very moment Mary becomes a mother at the Annunciation, she also becomes a queen. The Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that her Son will sit on “the throne of his ancestor David” and that “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32–33). Since Jesus is a king, and since He is conceived in the womb of Mary, and since in Israel the mother of a king was always a queen, (the daughter not necessarily so), Mary becomes a queen. Some texts from the early centuries of the Church call Mary the “domina,” the female of “dominus,” Latin for “master” or “Lord.”

It is not royal blood, but her motherly relationship, that makes Mary a queen. And since nothing is excluded from the realm of Christ the King, Mary is the Queen of that same realm, including both heaven and earth. This realm was not earned through violent conquest or political machinations. The Kingdom of Christ the King was purchased through a blood sacrifice of the King Himself who died on the cross. Soldiers were not killed so that Christ could walk over their corpses on the battlefield in order to rule a vanquished people from a secular throne. No, of course not. Christ humbly allowed Himself to be murdered so that He could rise forty hours later and ascend into heaven to be seated, like a king, at the right hand of the Father. (Kings sit. Their audience’s stand.) Christ gives the world a new form of reigning, a reinterpretation of the words “I win!”

Mary is that heavenly queen in the mysterious vision of the Book of Revelation in which appears “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rv 12:1–3). The complex symbolism of this crowned empress encompasses Mary, Israel, and the Church Herself. Mary’s coronation, the Fifth Glorious Mystery of the rosary, has not been defined dogmatically but has been celebrated liturgically and depicted in art since early medieval times.

The most ancient depiction of Mary as queen is a mosaic from the 500s in a small church in the historic center of Rome! But the feast day of her Queenship was only placed in the Church’s calendar in 1954. Vatican II stated unequivocally that “Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe…” (Lumen Gentium, 59). After the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, the octave of Mary’s Assumption was abrogated but is still recalled in her Queenship being commemorated eight days after August 15, showing the link between the two celebrations.

Earthly kings, queens, and kingdoms, so present throughout the lived history of mankind, are, more cosmically, images or signs of the structure of authority that lies behind all creation. Mankind naturally organizes its public life to ensure peaceful co-existence with others, to promote order and tranquility, and to foster the common good in a thousand ways. This secular response of establishing a structure to manage together what cannot be managed alone is universal and always includes certain leaders to represent the organized community. All of this has a religious equivalent. A sacred canopy hangs over the world. A timeless, divine mega-structure encompasses under itself all of the smaller, temporary civic structures. The man anointed as king, the woman crowned as queen, the order they impose through a just rule in a secular polity, point to something else—an underlying, and overarching, sacred polity in which God rules His creation like a fatherly king. In this timeless theological union, the feminine presence is felt. The queen mother is there, interceding with her King-Son on behalf of His subjects. She worships with them but also receives their honor. The accolades directed at her are deflected, mirror-like, to the greater One to whom she is holy daughter, holy mother, holy spouse and holy queen, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

Mary, Queen of the Universe, in your Son’s Kingdom, the faithful struggle to be faithful and to be fruitful. We are under your regal yet maternal care. May we please both our King and Father, and you, our Queen and Mother, since all parents are deserving of their children’s honor. Amen.

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