Foundations of Faith|
Queen Mother shares in the King's work
Mary assumed a special role in the work of salvation
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
Last Saturday (Aug. 4), Britain celebrated a big event: the Queen
Mother's 101st birthday.
This month, the church celebrates the feast of another Queen
Mother: the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The feast of the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22 is the newest of
the Marian feasts on the liturgical calendar. It was added in
1954 by Pope Pius XII and originally celebrated on May 31. (Pope
Pius was also the pope who declared Mary's Assumption to be
dogma, in 1950.)
As part of the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican
Council, the feast of Mary's Queenship was moved to Aug. 22, the
octave of the Assumption.
Pope Paul VI, in his 1974 encyclical on devotion to Mary,
explained the logic of the change of dates. "The solemnity of
Aug. 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. 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" (Marialis
Cultis, no. 6).
The idea of the power and influence of the King's mother has long
been part of human history. Many ancient civilizations honored
the Queen Mother. The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Persians
all gave the queen mother special titles, power and influence -
especially in the role of her son's assuming power as the next
Catholic apologist Scott Hahn notes a queen mother's power came
from a second source: stability. "As wife of the former king and
mother of the present king, the queen mother embodied the
continuity of dynastic succession."
The influence of the queen mother was also an aspect of ancient
Israel. The Hebrews had a word hrybg (pronounced "gebirah")
meaning "great lady," the title of the king's mother. The most
famous of hrybg was Bathsheba, widow of David and mother of
Solomon. Her influence is noted in 2 Kings 2. Other references to
queen mothers - some of whom misused their influence - are found
in 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Kings 10:13, 2 Kings 24:15; and Jer. 29:2.
However they used their power, it is clear the mothers of kings
had great influence over their sons and, therefore, great power
in the kingdom.
It is in this way that Mary can also seen as "the great lady" of
her son's kingdom.
Placing Mary in a special intercessory position developed in the
first centuries of the church, first through honoring her as the
Mother of God - confirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 - and
later becoming the high Mariology of the Middle Ages, the time of
vast historical empires ruled by emperors and kings.
Fr. Stefano de Fiores, former professor of Marian Spirituality at
Gregorian University in Rome, explained Mary as Queen by calling
her "the Gebirah of the New Testament. As Mother of the King par
excellence whose reign will have no end, she makes possible the
marriage of the Word with humanity."
Mary's queenship is linked to her motherhood. But, her queenship
derives from another source as well, as we are reminded by Piux
XII: "The Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only
because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed
her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal
And just what is Mary's role in the work of salvation? We can see
that in how she is portrayed in Scripture, as pointed out by Pope
Paul VI in his 1974 encyclical on devotion to Mary, Marialis
Cultis (no. 17-20):
-- "Mary is the attentive Virgin, who receives the word of God
with faith, that faith which in her case was the gateway and path
to divine motherhood."
-- "Mary is also the Virgin in prayer. when she poured out her
soul in expressions glorifying God, and expressions of humility,
faith and hope."
-- "Mary is also the Virgin Mother - she who 'believing and
obeying'. brought forth on earth the Father's Son.
-- Mary is, finally, "the Virgin presenting offerings" (MC 20)
when she brings Jesus to the Temple, and stands at his cross.
In all these roles - attentive to God, worshipful, faithful and,
finally, total committing herself - Mary lived her life as Queen
Mother. But as Queen Mother of the Church, she has another role:
teaching by example. And the Church, as Pope Paul says, has long
been recognized this. "Mary is not only an example for the whole
Church in the exercise of divine worship, but is also clearly a
teacher of the spiritual life for individual Christians. The
faithful at a very early date began to look to Mary and to
imitate her in making their lives an act of worship of God and
making their worship a commitment of their lives" (MC 21).
The British honor Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - not because she
is a ruler or has any governmental power - but because she has
seen her people through rough times (especially during WWII) and
remains a sign of hope in the continuity of what has been good
and noble in British history.
Elizabeth is only one of many queen mothers throughout history.
But there is only one Queen Mother of God. So how much more,
then, should we honor Mary, who stood by Jesus and his Church
through rough times, was human just like us and now is "a sign of
certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God (Vatican
II) who seek to follow her Son into the holy and eternal kingdom.
(Sources: worldbook.com; Marialis Cultis; Ad caeli reginam; bible.crosswalk.com; Lumen gentium and Dictionary of Mary.)