August 2020 Allocutio
The Queenship of Our Lady
Fr. Paul Churchill
The month of August is studded with Feasts of Our Lady or Feasts about events or people connected to her.
Clearly the Feast of the Assumption lies at the heart of the month but to it we can add the Feast of her Queenship, the dedication of the Basilica of Major Mary, in Ireland of Our Lady of Knock, feasts of saints who had a place for Mary like Sts. Dominic, Maximilian Kolbe, John Eudes and ending with an event that must have shook Our Lady, the beheading of John the Baptist.
However today I am going to focus on her Queenship. In Christian tradition I understand that it was St. Ephraim who first gave her the title Queen. From then on the title was used more and more and so we have prayers such as the Hail Holy Queen, Hail Queen of Heaven, etc. While the term was used for centuries by the Christian faithful, including St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and also depicted in art, it was only in 1954 that Pope Pius XII established it as a universal feast to be celebrated on 31st May but moved now to the 22nd August, clearly linking it to the Feast of the Assumption.
On the Feast of the Assumption we have in the first reading at Mass a text which is as close as we will get to saying that she is Queen. In Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation we read, “A great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12:1). The text has many layers of meaning and indeed possible interpretations, but the very fact that this woman is wearing a crown indicates she is Queen. Indeed, one of the Jewish sources for this text has this “woman” placed as the spouse of God. And what is a Queen if not the wife of the King?
Now it is not for us to try and understand the grand designs of God and to shadow guess what he is up to. “Who can know the mind of the Lord, who can be his counsellor?” (Is 40:13; Rm 11:34). Indeed it is the very humility of Mary which makes her the most qualified to be Queen: “He looks on his servant in her lowliness”. But the text referring to sun, moon and stars suggests a cosmic dimension of this Queen. She is the Queen of the Universe. And if we look closer at various texts of Scripture we will get a sense that her role extends across time and space and even to other Universes.
God wanted to become one with his Creation. Theologians dispute if this was his plan from before he began Creation or whether it became a later effort to rescue us. Frank Duff implies the former (see Handbook Chapter 39,1). One obvious effect of the Incarnation is that God has not just united himself to our human spirits. No matter from what angle you look at it, God, by adopting human nature, has also adopted with it the whole of creation. The human body is fashioned from the chemicals of the earth and those same chemicals also housed the Word from the first moment of the Incarnation: the Word became flesh. This is reinforced by the fact that it is bread and wine that is transubstantiated in the Eucharist and becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.
St. Paul says that the creation is crying out for the revealing and liberation of the sons of God (Rm 8:18ss). This is taken up by the Church which sees Christ as saving all creation, a reality reflected in the Collect of the Feast of Christ the Universal King when we pray, “Grant we pray that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise”. If so then this must reflect too on the Queen. She who facilitated the hypostatic union, the union of God to his creation here, has to have cosmic significance.
But as I suggested earlier her place in creation seems to go beyond this Universe. Just think of the Annunciation: an angel kneels before her, carrying a message from God and soon to carry a message back from her to God. The scene clearly indicates that she is on some par with God and the angel is just a go-between. It reminds us on that text in Hebrews: To what angel does God address him as son (Heb 1:5)?
Think of the Christmas scene, one of stars, even special stars. Also of bright lights from angel hordes. It is also one of animals and straw and earthy smells. They all represent God’s creation in so many dimensions. The circumstances that lead to Jesus being born in Bethlehem and having as his first home, not just a place with humans but also animals and other very earthly realities but also surrounded by heavenly beings, all point to some central event in the unfolding of history which has a cosmic dimension.
The creature who is the location of this great union, who is the point of entry so that God can unite himself with his creation, has to have universal cosmic significance. She has to be then Queen of heaven and earth, of all creatures here and in Heaven. Angels are at her command. Her power on intercession for us here in this vale of tears is great.
As Queen her concern is to see God’s project completed. And in that project there is you and me. We all have a part in that divine project. We all matter. And she cares for you and me and wants the best for us. She wants to help us to receive those graces which will help us fulfill our part in God’s plan for which he made us. Above all she wants God’s plan brought to completion.
As Queen of heaven she sees the full universal plan of God. So while we can pray for this and that, and she does understand our needs and can intercede for the little things, we have to remember that she says to you and me as she did to Bernadette, “I do not promise you happiness in this life but in the next!” And let us never forget that we should have only one objective: getting to heaven; the alternative is not to be thought of.
Yes, we pray for her help and we should always do so. Let us trust that from her vantage point as Queen she will bring us the best. And let us never forget that formulation of our act of consecration at each Acies: I am all thine, my Queen and Mother, and all that I have is thine.