In mid-August we have two feasts of Mary which shed light on why she is both queen and mother. First is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15 and seven days later, on August 22, is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. That there are two feast of Mary so close together gives us a clue that there is something important being said of Mary and our relationship with her. At their core these two feasts celebrate the same thing: the love with which Mary expresses her eternal dedication to her Son and to His people. The Feast of the Assumption celebrates the culmination of Mary’s earthly life and her arrival in Heaven where she was greeted by the Father and given a place by the side of Jesus. Mary died, as all humans do, but rather than having to wait for the resurrection of the body on the last day, God gave her that gift immediately upon her death, reuniting her body and soul and taking her directly to Heaven. This gift was given because of all she did in cooperating with God who entered into our world through her assent to Him. The two feasts are connected, then, because upon her entrance into heaven she was honored by God, crowned Queen of Heaven as the mother of Jesus, who is the King. As St. Athanasius said, “If the Son is a King, the mother who begot Him is rightly and truly considered a queen and sovereign.”
Just before He died on the cross Jesus entrusted us to Mary when He said to John: “Behold, your mother.” He was indicating that she would be the mother of all who were in His church throughout history. She did take on this role, continuing to intercede for the apostles and all those who are disciples of Jesus, which of course, includes us today. Mary was immediately central to the small community of believers which is why she is the only other person named as being with the apostles when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. I suspect it was not just because of her relationship to Jesus, but because of the beauty of her heart. Though humble, she was beloved as a mother to the community. While there is no mention of her death and entrance into heaven in the Scriptures, it has always been believed that once there, she was honored as the Queen of Heaven.
Therefore, when we celebrate her queenship, we are celebrating the beauty of her heart which is expressed in the love, mercy, understanding, and compassion that she directs to the world and to each of her children. We are celebrating the power of her love and that her highest priority is what is most important to her Son: the salvation of the world. We are celebrating how, through her constant intercessory prayer, she aids us in resisting evil and in our growth in holiness. And we are recognizing that she does not simply pray for us without asking our participation in the fight against sin and evil. As any good queen would do, she encourages us to be empowered through our own prayer joined to hers. Though she has the perfection of being full of grace, and that as His mother she is closer to Jesus than any other person, she also wants us to grow in grace while participating in the work of building the Kingdom of God.
What we take away from celebrating Mary as Queen of Heaven, then, is that the world needs humble leaders, those who lead quietly and firmly through the power of love. To lead as she leads means to have respect for those whom we serve, to treat others with the dignity they deserve. It means that like Mary who gave so much in service of God, we need a sense of solidarity with the poor. It means that we adopt her ministry of intercession and prayer by lifting up those who have entrusted their cares to us, asking her to carry our prayers to her Son. It means we try to be sensitive to the needs of those whom we see on a daily basis. It means standing up for what we know to be true and right based on gospel values. And it means that we continually seek to do that which God calls us to do, trusting in His wisdom. Having Mary as our Queen means that even in the face of that which feels insurmountable we have one to whom we can turn who will never refuse to intercede on our behalf. Her queenship is that of the combined power of her love, humility, and the power of her prayer in which she wants to protect us, keep us from evil, and lead us to her Son. She shows us that without God we have nothing, but if we give ourselves to Him, we have everything. No wonder we have more than one feast in which to celebrate her. Let us rejoice in so great a gift as that of the Queen of Heaven, our mother!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is The Coronation of the Virgin which was painted in 1444 by an artist named Filippo Lippi. For more information on Lippi go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filippo_Lippi
Next is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Our Lady of New the Advent Gate of Heaven. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/our-lady-of-the-new-advent-gate-of-heaven-003-william-hart-mcnichols.html
I chose this because of my reference to Mary as Mother of God. There are simply tons of paintings and icons of Mary as Theotokos, of the Assumption of Mary, (her Dormition, as depicted in iconography) and Mary as Queen of Heaven, so you can search these on Google till your heart is content.
Next is an icon called She Who Reigns written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. You can find it at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/she-who-reigns-276-william-hart-mcnichols.html
The final two photos are mine. The first is a pelican with the Gulf of Mexico in the background, taken in Biloxi, Mississippi. I chose this because the pelican is famous for suffering so that it's children may have life, a sort of intercession. The last is a photo I took of stained glass at a church in Nevers, France.