Note: The reflections contained in today’s homily are taken entirely from Edward Sri’s book Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship, Emmaus Road, Steubenville 2005.
Mary is the Queen of heaven and earth and our Queen because she is the Mother of our Lord and because she cooperated in Christ’s redemptive work of salvation. “Since she was uniquely associated with Christ’s suffering on the Cross, she was uniquely associated with His triumph and royal reign in the kingdom” (Queen Mother, 9). Assumed into heaven, Mary entered the royal court of heaven and sits at the right hand of her Son, Christ the King. As our Queen, Mary directs us, protects us and intercedes for us.
In his encyclical letter Ad Caeli Reginam (1954), Pius XII teaches that Mary is a most excellent queen because of her Immaculate Conception by which she possessed a fullness of innocence and holiness, as well she is a most efficacious queen as she shares in Christ’s influence over humanity, distributing graces through her motherly intercession. “With a heart that is truly a mother’s … does she approach the problem of our salvation, and is solicitous for the whole human race; made Queen of heaven and earth by the Lord, exalted above all choirs of angels and saints, and standing at the right hand of her only Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, she intercedes powerfully for us with a mother’s prayers, obtains what she seeks and cannot be refused” (AC, 42).
John Paul II develops three aspects of Mary’s queenship by which she was more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords, and conqueror of sin and death (Lumen Gentium, 59). First, Mary’s royal office is understood in relation to Christ’s self-emptying and royal exaltation. “Christ himself humbly served even to the point of death, and was therefore raised and entered into the glory of His Kingdom, exalted as Lord over all”. Christ’s true disciples reign because they serve: To serve means to reign! Mary, then, is the model disciple. The handmaid of the Lord, “she is the first disciple who served Christ in others and led them to Him. This is the basis of her queenship: ‘Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, has a share in this Kingdom of the Son’ (RM, 41)” (Queen Mother, 18). Second, Mary continues to serve as Queen in heaven. In heaven she does not cease her saving service, which expresses her maternal mediation “until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect” (Redemptoris Mater, 41). Third, Mary is clothed by the Communion of Saints and her union with the Son in glory is wholly oriented towards the definitive fullness of the Kingdom, when ‘God will be all in all’ (Redemptoris Mater, 41).
The Queen-mother had a special place in the royal court, for she shared in the king’s royal authority. She was an advocate for the people and a counselor to her son, the King. For example, King Solomon honors Bathsheba, his queen mother, by bowing before her, having her sit at his right hand, and saying that he will grant her any request she makes (see Queen Mother, 37).
The sign of Isaiah 7:14 looks forward to a queen mother who will conceive and bear a future Davidic king and name him “Immanuel”. Because Mary is the mother of the messianic Davidic King, Mary can be seen as the queen mother in the kingdom of her Son.
Not only is there a parallel between Solomon (son of David) – Bathsheba (Queen-mother) and Jesus (Son of David) – Mary (Queen Mother), there is also one between Adam – Eve and Jesus, the New Adam, – Mary, the New Eve. In Genesis 1, man and woman are given the mission to rule over all creation. God gives them dominion over the the creatures of the earth. Created in the image of God, man and woman are called to serve as God’s royal representatives (Queen Mother, 59). Adam is lifted from the dust to a royal office. The serpent is condemned to the dust under the feet of the king. The woman’s child in Genesis 3:15 will strike the head of the serpent’s offspring. The passage points to a future king who will crush the head of the serpent in a way that Davidic kings would subdue their enemies (see Queen Mother, 62).
In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, five woman stand out: Tamar, the mother of Perez through Judah, to whom the monarchy was promised; Rahab, the great great-grandmother of King David; Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David; Bathsheba, the wife of King David and the mother of Solomon; and Mary, the mother of Jesus, a descendant of David. When the magi visit Bethlehem, they see the child, the newborn King of the Jews, with Mary his mother. Mary stands beside her royal child as the magi pay him homage.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38), we are told that Joseph is of the house of David. The angel declares not only that Mary’s child will be the royal Son of David, but is also the Son of God. As Son of David, God the Father will give Jesus the throne of his father David, and Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) for ever and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33). Mary’s child is associated with the covenant of David, when God promised that one of David’s sons would receive a great name, sit on a throne in an everlasting kingdom, and be called God’s son (2 Sam. 7:9-16). In the Annunciation, Mary is given the vocation to be the queen mother of a Davidic king. In the Visitation (Luke 1:39-45), Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord”. In doing this, she greets Mary as the mother of the Messiah-King.
In Revelation 12, the “woman clothed with the sun” refers not only to God’s people (Israel and the Church), but also may be seen to refer to Mary. The woman’s son rules all nations and sits on a heavenly throne, inaugurating the Kingdom of God as the enemy, the ancient serpent, is defeated (Revelation 12:5). The woman herself is crowned and has royal status. She is related not only to the twelve tribes of Israel, but also to the Church, founded on the twelve apostles. Just as Isaiah 7:14 involves the sign “as high as heaven” of a queen mother who gives birth to a Davidic son, the woman in Revelation 12 is a heavenly sign, involving a royal woman giving birth to a kingly son.
As Queen Mother, Mary has no authority on her own, but rather depends entirely on her royal Son, Christ the King. Jesus is a King of humble origins, who washes the feet of his own disciples, who rejected the temptation of Satan to a false messiahship, who reigns through humility and becoming a servant even to the point of giving his life. Because of his humble service, Jesus is exalted by the Father and enthroned over all things, is victorious over sin, death and the devil. “The abasement-exaltation of Christ is seen especially in Philippians 2:5-11, which describes how every knee shall bend to Christ and every tongue shall confess Him as Lord, but also emphasizes that His supreme exaltation flows from His abasement – becoming a slave, being obedient unto death, death on a Cross” (Queen Mother, 111). Likewise Mary is the humble servant of the Lord, who perseveres even unto suffering. She is exalted because of her lowliness as the Lord’s servant. Mary’s life, then, is an eloquent witness to the kingdom of God and “it is through her humble, obedient service that she has a share in Christ’s reign, reigning with Him over the powers of sin and death” (Queen Mother, 112).
In Mary, we contemplate the fulfillment of the promise that all Christ’s disciples, those who listen to him and follow him, will share in his reign. Those who give up everything to follow him, will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28-30). Those who follow Christ through trials will rule over the new Israel (Luke 22:28-30); those who die with him will reign with him (2 Timothy 2:11-12) (see Queen Mother, 113).
Mary, then, is the model disciple who heard God’s word and accepted it and persevered throughout her life, following her Son even through the torment of his death. In this, she fulfilled all the conditions for attaining royal status. She inspires all of us to realize the Christian royal vocation in our lives. “Therefore, fixing our gaze on the mystery of Mary’s Assumption, of her ‘crowning’ in glory, we daily learn to serve – to serve God in our brothers and sisters, to express in our attitude of service the ‘royalty’ of our Christian vocation in every state or profession, in every time and in every place. To carry over into the reality of our daily life through such an attitude the petition, ‘Thy kingdom come’, which we make every day in the Lord’s prayer to the Father” (Pope Saint John Paul II, 23 August 1981).
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].