Mary, Queen of Heaven
Ours is not a nation that is steeped in royalty, but many of us seem to love it when the royals in other nations have something going on in their lives, such as getting married or having babies. I admit that I was one of those people who watched with delight the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, a few years ago. I do not think it was because I have dreams of being like a royal, nor is it because I like fairytale type stories, but I think it is because it was a witness to love. Still, it is difficult to relate to lives such as theirs when we do not live like royalty in our own experience. Maybe that is why we watch so carefully: it is not going to be our experience, so we are trying to understand what such lives might be like. Whatever it is, we do have a fascination with royalty.
However, for those of us who are Christian the concept of royalty should not be foreign because it is part of our spirituality. We speak of God as our King in many passages of our Scriptures. The Old Testament abounds with examples, such as in Psalm 47 in which God is depicted as the Ruler of all the Nations. ("For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, the great king over all the earth...." And "sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise.") And as His children we, too, are royal. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9) It makes complete sense: as children of our God and King, we are indeed royals!
I believe that our own royalty is something we do not spend enough time reflecting upon. Not that we are to get haughty about it, but if we are to be true children of our King, then knowing we are royal needs to be part of our identity. Actually, knowing who we are should make us humble, as He is humble. For most of us, the issue when we do not identify ourselves as royalty is that we think we are unworthy of the kind of love He wants to give us. We sell ourselves short, so we sell our reception of His love short, too. That is not humility. Rather, it is a lie. Instead of identifying ourselves with being too low and depraved to be loved, we need to embrace the truth of who we are meant to be. While we are sinners, this does not take away our identity as royal sons and daughters of God.
We were created by God as sacred, in His image and likeness. That means we were meant to be able to experience His love without any barriers. Unfortunately our earthly parents, Adam and Eve, accepted the temptation of the evil one and so the barriers arose. God has spent the rest of salvation history (so far) trying to convince us once again that we are royal and holy. We seem to refuse to believe it and so as a result we are always looking for answers to the mysteries of life outside of ourselves. We look to power, money, lovers, ambition, strange gods of all sorts, and all of it "out there" somewhere. Sadly, we are running all over the place trying to find God, and all along He is within us trying to tell us how much He loves us because we are His royal children whom He loves more than anything. If we really want to be just like Him, we need to stop, look, and listen. That is, stop all the running around, look inside our own hearts, and listen to what God is saying to us. He will say it to each of us uniquely and differently, but the message is the same: “You are my beautiful child and I love you."
The one person who understood this message from the start of her life was the mother of Jesus. Mary of Nazareth heard the voice of God from the first moment she could recognize an interior voice at all and she said yes to that voice. The Gospel of Luke tells us that she often pondered things in her heart. What that means is that she allowed herself to be quiet, she looked into her own heart in prayer, and she listened to the voice of God which she learned to recognize. It is no wonder God chose her in the same way that she was used to communicating with Him: He sent an angel when she was at a quiet moment, she looked within herself to understand His request, and she said yes in complete humility.
Last week we celebrated Mary's Assumption into Heaven. When she breathed her last breath, God prevented her body from seeing corruption and took her, body and soul, into Heaven. He did this because of her humility and her service of Jesus, His Son and hers. Mary continued to listen to God's word through God's Word, (Jesus). She continued to ponder it, and then responded to it throughout her entire life. She accepted who she was, a creature, beautifully made, by loving God back. So is it no wonder then, that God crowned her as Queen of Heaven, (a feast we celebrate this week)? She accepted her royalty during her life and lived like a royal, a Christian royal, which means she lived in humility. This is what is distinct about our notion of royalty: to be greatest means to be the least one, the servant of all, and to do it with love. No one, except Jesus from whom she learned it, ever lived Christian royalty as well as Mary did.
Mary is Queen of Heaven and will reign as such forever. Mary is not God and so she still serves God as she did when she was in her life on earth. If we hear she is Queen of Heaven and we think that means she sits on a cloud with the angels waiting on her hand and foot, that is a mistaken notion. Her reign is to serve, and so she intercedes for us who have such great needs. When we approach her for help we know that she goes to her Son for us, begging on our behalf. There is no one closer to Jesus than His mother, so she is an excellent intercessor for us. An excellent prayer to ask her intercession is the Memorare which begins like this: "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided..."* We know she will plead the case for us to the Most High God, her King.
Mary is also an excellent role model for us. We can learn from Mary how to be a royal child of God. It means we learn to see, listen, and act with compassion. Therefore we become sensitive to the cries of the world. We become aware of the poor in our own cities and in places afar; we become alert to the horrors in war torn nations where people cannot worship freely, get medical help or the food they need to survive; we do not turn a blind eye to those who are in pain, lonely, ill, afraid, marginalized, abused, or neglected by the people in their lives. We cannot take away the suffering of others; the problems of the world are bigger than we are, but if we live as royal children of God and treat those around us with the same dignity, our love will touch them and begin to affect some change, even if it seems nearly invisible to us. When the Body of Christ is wounded by sin, we all suffer, and when the Body of Christ is healed by a loving act, the entire Body heals.
Mary is our Queen and we, too, will have crowns in Heaven. We will have the crown of the elect of God, the holy ones who are described in the Book of Revelation as wearing white robes. The crowns which are elusive now will be given us when we reach the end of our journey. We need to persevere, which we can do with the help of God and with the example of Mary who imitated her Son, Jesus, as His disciple so perfectly. If you begin to lose sight of your own dignity as a royal child of God, cry out to Him to show you the way. Do not be surprised if He sends you His mother to love you back into seeing yourself the way He does, as a beautiful, royal child.
May we learn our true identity as royal children of God! May we turn to our Mother Mary, the Queen of Heaven, to guide us to her Son! May we ask Mary to intercede for peace in our world and in our hearts! With Mary as our model, may we also intercede for the world through prayer for the reparation of sins and through acts of love and kindness! Let us continue to meet with all the royal children and Mary, Queen of Heaven in the Heart of Jesus Our King! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The Memorare is one of my favorite prayers, so here it is in its entirety:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
The icons are all the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols:
The first is very fitting for this entry, I believe. It is Mother of God Asking For Humility. It can be found on Fr. Bill's website at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/172-mother-of-god-asking-for-humility.
The second icon is The Dormition of the Mother of God and is found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/246-the-dormition-of-the-mother-of-god.
The next is at the end of the entry, Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations. This is my personal favorite among all Fr. Bill's icons. It is found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/168-mary-most-holy-mother-of-all-nations. Fr. Bill has many icons of Mary, so do check out his webpage if you are interested in getting a reproduction: http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/category/12-mother-of-god-gallery
The bas relief which is the third image from the top of the entry, in gold, is Queen of Heaven by Gentile da Fabriano, c. 1423.
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Heart Speaks to Heart