Father Tirso

This coming Tuesday, August 22nd, is the memorial in honor of the Virgin Mary. The history of the memorial and how it has come to be a yearly celebration in the Church’s liturgical calendar is directly related to a title of the Virgin Mary that we may use a lot, but may not really understand fully. Namely, August 22nd in the Church’s liturgical calendar is the memorial of the Queenship of the Virgin Mary.

As Catholics, we find it very easy to address the Virgin Mary as Queen. In her litany there are several titles given to Mary describing her as a queen...for example, Queen of patriarchs, Queen of martyrs, Queen of heaven, Queen of peace. Part of the trouble in understanding Mary’s role as Queen may be connected to the fact that, in many instances, royalty today is more of a figurehead than a person who has actual governing responsibilities. Another part of the difficulty also arises in the fact that some may argue that honoring Mary with the title of “queen” is not supported by Sacred Scripture. Still, another aspect of the misunderstanding comes from the stereotypical association that the queen is the wife of the king which, therefore, would put Jesus and Mary in a rather odd relationship with one another.

The answer to all of this lies in the Catholic understanding that Mary’s role is always connected to the mission and role of Jesus, her son. Mary cannot be called Queen without a clear understanding that, as the Incarnate God, Jesus is essentially greater than all others, even Mary herself. At the same time, it is not farfetched to see Mary in the role of a queen.

At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that her Son would receive the throne of David and that he would rule forever. At the Visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth, Mary is greeted by her cousin as the “Mother of my Lord.” For this reason, Mary’s Queenship is a share in Jesus’ Kingship. We can only rightfully understand Mary as Queen when we profess our faith in Jesus as the King. Mary, therefore, cannot act contrary to the will of Jesus. Her son, after all, is the Incarnate God and, as a creature herself, Mary only serves to fulfill the divine will of God. Her power as queen is limited to the part she plays in the whole scheme of God’s salvific work.

Moreover, it is not out of place to address Mary as Queen where her son Jesus is the King. Again, the confusion arises because we normally associate the queen as being the wife of the king. However, in the Old Testament, the wife of the king was not considered to be the queen. In many instances, the king had several wives or, at the least, concubines. In those cases where one of the king’s wives was named the queen, there inevitably arose serious competition between the king’s wives for the honor of that title. In this struggle for supremacy, things, as they say, could get ruthless.

For this reason, the queen in Old Testament times was not the wife of the king. Rather, the queen was the mother of the king. Since the king would only have one mother as opposed to several wives, the honor of being queen was given to the woman who gave birth to the king. She, then, would have great influence not only in the royal court, but also in the governance of the kingdom. As queen, the king’s mother would have the ear of her son. In all affairs regarding the kingdom, the advice of the king’s mother would be considered as having top priority. The king’s subjects, therefore, would oftentimes go to the queen in the hopes that she would convince her son to grant favor to their requests. Ultimately, of course, the decision was left up to the king alone, but having the queen on one’s side gave an added bonus.

In this way, we understand more clearly the role that the Virgin Mary plays as Queen. She not only holds a high position of honor in the royal court of her son, but Mary also is the one to whom Jesus’ faithful followers can confidently approach to request her intercession before the King. Again, the decision will always be up to Jesus. But, having the Virgin Mary as Queen gives us on earth the assurance that our prayers will always reach the ears of the King of the Universe and Lord of all.

Fr. Tirso S. Villaverde, Jr.

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