The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary: How and Why to Celebrate
When we sing or pray the Litany of Loreto, the Church’s privileged litany to Our Lady, we hear the following invocations:
Queen of Angels, pray for us.
Queen of Patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of Prophets, pray for us.
Queen of Apostles, pray for us.
Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of Confessors, pray for us.
Queen of Virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, pray for us.
Queen of the most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
Queen of families, pray for us.
Queen of peace, pray for us.
It’s clear, then, that the Church likes to think of Mary, not only as the Mother of God or as our Mother, but as a Queen. On August 22, each year the Church commemorates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a special feast day. Why should we think of Mary this way? And why was this day chosen for her feast?
Mary’s Queenship in the Old Testament
We can look to the biblical Kingdom of Israel as a type and model of the Kingdom of God. After the death of David, Solomon became king. Once his kingship was established, his mother, Bathsheba, went to see him, in order to intercede with him on behalf of Adonijah. Solomon “rose to meet her and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne and had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, ‘I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.’And the king said to her, ‘Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you’” (1 Kings 2: 19-20 NRSV). Here we see the role of the “Queen-Mother” – in ancient Israel, it was more the King’s mother, and less his wives, who had a powerful role at court and served as a counselor to the King and an intercessor for his subjects.
Mary’s Queenship, then, has its foundation in her humble acceptance of being the Mother of God. Because Jesus Christ is King and Lord, ruling over the heavens and the earth, and “sitting on the throne of his father David,” as the archangel Gabriel said, we recognize that his Mother is seated with him and reigns with him in heaven as Queen.
When Pope Pius XII established this feast in 1954, he placed it on May 31st, which is the close of the month dedicated to Mary. In 1969, St. Paul VI reformed the liturgical calendar, and found another fitting place for this feast on August 22nd – the former “Octave Day of the Assumption of Mary.” Though the Assumption would no longer be celebrated with an octave, we are given the Feast of her Queenship as a vestige of this practice. By relating these two feasts, we should recognize that Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven has a greater purpose. Though Mary, because she was free from sin, was deserving of this great reward, her Assumption also made her the Queen of Heaven, who is able to powerfully intercede for us with her Son the King. We should marvel at God’s goodness – He is not satisfied with only exulting Mary in the way that is fitting, but He turns this into our salvation by giving us so loving an intercessor.
But are there any practical considerations of Mary’s Queenship? One is that Mary, as our Queen, rules with her Son over a kingdom which is at war. The Church has enemies, particularly spiritual ones. We each have to do spiritual battle against the devil, the world, and the flesh. We can do this most effectively if we take Mary to be our “general” or “commanding officer.” Because of Mary’s perfect relationship with the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity (as Daughter of the Father, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Mother of the Son), her will is always perfectly united to God’s own will. By trusting her to lead us, and by seeking to serve her and to do her will, we can be confident that we will serve God and do his will. Practically speaking, this will be as simple as getting advice from her, by meditating on Mary’s humility and purity, or asking for her intercession before even the smallest tasks. We should remember that Christ chose only to come into this world through Mary, and that even now all his graces flow to us through this loving and merciful Queen.
Honoring Mary’s Queenship
Beyond going to Mass on her feast day, the Church provides us with some concrete helps in entering into the mystery of Mary’s Queenship.
#1 Praying the Rosary
One is by praying the Rosary today, in particular the 5th Glorious Mystery which celebrates Mary’s coronation. One of the fruits traditionally asked for in this mystery is “trust in Mary’s intercession.” Pray the Rosary on Mary’s feast, and offer it for better trust in her as our Queen, and for those who fail to trust in her Queenship.
#2 Learning About Marian Consecration
Another could be by learning about Marian Consecration. This practice has been highly recommended by numerous saints, such as John Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe, and Louis de Montfort. Some Catholics choose to undergo a time of preparation, often lasting more than a month. Then they say a formal prayer to Mary, offering themselves to her in a special way, so that she can use them however she sees fit to bring about the sanctification of the whole world. Read about Marian Consecration today.
#3 Praying the Marian Antiphons
One final way we could celebrate the feast of Mary’s Queenship is to pray the Marian Antiphons. These four hymns to the Blessed Virgin Mary are usually sung at the end of Compline (Night Prayer), as the last prayer of the day. Three of them, the Salve Regina, Ave Regina Caelorum, and Regina Caeli, specifically address Mary as the Queen of heaven. Each of these recognize Mary’s unique role by proclaiming that she bore Christ to the world, that she brings us to Christ even now, and that she is our chief intercessor with God. Furthermore, these antiphons are each set to a beautiful chant, all of which are relatively easy to sing. Today we can spend some time learning to sing these chants and committing them to memory. These words and melodies will surely get stuck in our head, and this can help us praise the Queen of Heaven throughout the whole day! Learn these chants here.
In Glorifying Our Lady We Glorify God
The Church proposes to us the mystery of Mary’s Queenship by way of a special feast on August 22. We have seen that the aim of this feast is to help us recognize the unique role of Mary as the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, and to prompt us to love, to serve, and to praise her, and to ask for her intercession. But why should we? Some might object: Mary was really holy, and now she’s in heaven. That’s great, but shouldn’t I just follow Jesus? Isn’t trying to serve Mary and actually do her will a little much? Doesn’t proclaiming her Queenship set her up as a rival to Christ’s Kingship?
St. Maximilian Kolbe received this objection too, and his reply is one of my favorites:
Our soul’s degree of perfection depends on the union of our will with that of God. The greater the perfection, the greater the union. Because the most Blessed Virgin surpasses in perfection all the angels and saints, her will is united with and made one in the closest manner with the will of God. She lives and acts solely in God and through God. Hence, by accomplishing the will of the Immaculate we accomplish by that very fact the will of God.
When we say that we wish only to accomplish the Immaculate’s will, we do not at all intend to diminish God’s glory; on the contrary we increase it considerably, because in this way we recognize and venerate God’s almighty power which has called so sublime and perfect a creature into existence. So, too, when we remain enchanted before a beautiful statue, by that very fact we praise and admire the artist’s genius (The Kolbe Reader, “God’s and Mary’s will are One” p. 170-171.)
In short, by doing the will of our Queen, honoring her and belonging to her, we both accomplish God’s own will, and glorify God for creating so perfect a creature as Mary!
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, pray for us!