Tag Archives: Mary Mother of God

King Jesus and Queen Mary

Although the Church does not officially celebrate an Octave proceeding from the Solemnity of the Assumption, the timing of the liturgical celebration of the Queenship of Mary eight days later sets up what could still be viewed as an “Octave in spirit.”  The timing is especially apt because her coronation completes the picture first presented to us in the Assumption.  Quite literally, it crowns everything that we know about Mary and, even more importantly, about her Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in the spirit of entering more fully into these two Marian celebration that it is particularly helpful to reflect specifically on her role as Queen.

The Church often finds herself in a defensive stance when it comes to proclaiming the truth about Mary.  This posture mostly follows from a belief, even if only unconscious, that Our Lady’s greatness diminishes Christ’s greatness.  We grow anxious that we might love Mary too much and thus take away from Jesus.  But everything that we believe about Mary flows from the fact that she was predestined to be the Mother of God.  God never calls a person without also giving that person the necessary natural and supernatural endowments to carry out their mission.  Mary’s plentitude of grace comes from God because of her role as the Mother of God.  Her union with her Son was not just mystical but natural and His dependence upon her made her cooperation in His work of redemption wholly unique.

Mary’s Role as Mother of God and Its Consequences

There are consequences that follow from her role as Mother of God.  Related to our particular reflection, she was the mother of the One Whom God would give “the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).  In short, she is the Mother of the King of Kings.

St. Gabriel’s message confirms what we already find in many other places in Scripture, namely that the Davidic kingdom provides a blueprint for the Kingdom of God.  And like the other the other near-East kingdoms of the time, the Mother of the king or the Gebirah in the Davidic kingdom played a pivotal role in the management of that kingdom.

This unique role of the Gebirah has been studied and written about extensively (I especially recommend Dr. Edward Sri’s book called Queen Mother), so I won’t duplicate those efforts here (**see footnote).  Instead, I will point out two passages that are particularly illustrative.  Both involve David’s wife Bathsheba, the mother of future King Solomon.  Early in the First Book of Kings (1:6) when an aging David is coming to the end of his reign, she enters the royal chamber in a posture of obeisance and offered homage to the king.  While acknowledging her, he pays her no particular honor.  Fast forward a chapter (1Kings 2:19ff ) and we find that once Solomon becomes king she enters the royal chamber and the narrative finds him bowing before her, having a throne brought in and placed at his right hand.  She intercedes on behalf of Adonijah and the king says he cannot refuse her.

The juxtaposition of these two passages confirms for us two things and help us to see more clearly what role Queen Mary, as the Gebirah, plays in the fulfilled Davidic Kingdom.  First, Bathsheba has no authority as wife of the king, but once her son becomes king, she is given a throne.  Without her son on the throne, she has no authority so that her authority depends upon his royal authority.  Likewise, all that we say about Mary’s Queenship flows only from Christ’s authority.  She has only a share in His authority.  But as is always the case with the Church’s Marian beliefs, take away from Mary and you diminish Christ.  Mary’s exaltation puts flesh, literally and figuritvely, on what we believe about Christ.  Without those beliefs, the teachings about Christ gravitate towards abstraction.  If  you take away her queenship, you will be saying that Christ is not the true heir to the throne of David.  The throne of David always had a throne at the king’s right hand for the Queen Mother.

Second, the Queen Mother was no mere figurehead but had royal authority.  The king could not refuse her.  This helps us to shed light on what can otherwise seem like a rather odd interaction between Our Lord and Our Lady at Cana.  As Queen Mother, Our Lord could not refuse anything that His Mother asked even though His “hour had not yet come.”  She assumes He will do it, because she had such authority to “command” Him.

Why Mary Should Steal Your Heart

While this biblical proof-texting is necessary, we must always have the same goal in sight that Pope Pius XII had when he instituted the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen in his encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, namely, to “renew the praises of Our Heavenly Mother, and enkindle a more fervent devotion towards her, to the spiritual benefit of all mankind.”  The reasons for our devotion might satisfy our heads, but unless it also engages our hearts it will remain sterile facts.  The aforementioned Pontiff helps us begin the longest 18-inch journey by summarizing what we have already said and pointing out that “…as His associate in the redemption, in his struggle with His enemies and His final victory over them, has a share, though in a limited and analogous way, in His royal dignity. For from her union with Christ she attains a radiant eminence transcending that of any other creature; from her union with Christ she receives the royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer’s Kingdom.”

Well-schooled in democratic logic, we reflexively dismiss monarchical terms and neglect their import.  We must not forget that we are citizens in the Kingdom of God, not in the Democratic Republic of the United States of Humanity and Divinity.  Christ is the benevolent King and seated at His right hand is the benevolent Queen.  You cannot have Christ as King without Mary as Queen.  You cannot honor Him while neglecting to honor her.  A man who pledged loyalty to the King while disrespecting the Queen would be labeled as a traitor.  Our devotion for Christ should overflow onto His Mother (which will always flow back on Him).  We must see her as both Queen and Mother.

A sure way to increase that devotion is to reflect upon the fact that Our Lady has a “royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer’s Kingdom.”  The role of Advocate and Queen are practically synonymous—the Queen Mother in her royal office in the kingdom of David exercised her role primarily as an advocate, interceding for the people of the Kingdom.  In fact she did not share in any way in the royal judicial power.  Our Lady is never referred to as the Mother of Justice, but Mother of Mercy because her role is to distribute from the treasury of her Son.  When we realize that she has real power and real authority and that she exercises it as a Mother to each one of us, it is hard not to fall more deeply in love with Our Queen.

In a very real way, then, we see why the Queenship of Mary completes the Assumption.  Although her earthly life came to an end at the Assumption, her throne reminds us that her mission was really only just beginning.  She is the Advocate who always makes an offer that can’t be refused and our celebration of her Queenship must be a time of gratitude to God for so solicitous a Queen and to her for her constant intercession before God.

**For those interested in looking up some further passages supporting this see the succession narratives from 1 and 2 Kings, when each of the kings is mentioned, his mother is also mentioned with him emphasizing her important place beside the king.  The Queen Mother is alsodescried as having a crown (Jer 13:18), a throne (1 Kings 2:19) and is a member of the royal court (2 Kings 24:12-15).



Mary Mother of God

The essential activity of the Church’s teaching office, its reason for existence, is to keep and protect the contents of divine revelation.  It is only when there is a threat to the integrity and purity of the deposit of faith that she defines and exercises her Spirit-given gift of discernment.  Her powers of discernment were taxed during the first few centuries because of a string of challenges to her beliefs about Christ, true God and true man.  This came to a head in the early fifth Century when the Council of Ephasis (431) was called to address the question how Christ could have two natures (human and divine) and yet be a single Divine Person.  To address this, the Church developed the most important Christological dogma of the Hypostatic Union.  The Divine Son of God took to Himself a complete human nature and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.  Closely linked to this belief was the title given to Mary as “Mother of God.”  Many worried that calling her Mother of God, or Theotokos in Greek, would imply that she was the originator His divine nature.  Instead they proposed that she be called Christotokos or Mother of Christ.  The Church reasoned however that a woman is never a mother of a nature, but instead a mother of a person.  In this case, the Person is God and so it was proper to refer to Mary as the Mother of God.  The Council declared “If anyone does not confess that the Emmanuel is truly God and therefore that the holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Theotokos) (since she begot according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh), anathema sit” (Council of Ephesis, June 22, 431).

The “anathema sit” stems from the fact that referring to Mary merely as the Mother of Christ, a fundamental truth of the Incarnation is threatened.  It is a perfect illustration of the principle that everything the Church believes about Mary follows from her predestined role as Mother of God.  Put another way, anytime we detract from Mary, we ultimately subtract from Christ.  In short, the Marian dogmas are the great protectors of Our Lord’s humanity.

The Roots of Mary’s Greatness

Everything that we say about Mary with respect to her greatness stems from her office as Mother of God.  It is this Marian dogma around which all the other Marian dogmas revolve.  It is like the center of a wheel in which everything we say about her connects back.  For example, in declaring the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius IX refers to her office of Mother of God as the reason for her greatness—“And indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854, emphasis added ).

Keeping in mind her office as Mother of God also helps us maintain a balanced view of Mary.  When God calls, He always equips.  Being called to the greatest of roles—Mary also received the greatest gifts.  As St. Thomas says, all the glory and grace given to her was to make her the worthy Mother of God (ST III, q.27, a5, ad2).

God permitted man’s fall to bring about the greater good of the Incarnation.  The Bad News was followed immediately by the promise of the Good News to come (Gn 3:15).  This promise yoked the Redeemer with His Mother—the seed and the offspring were a package deal.  In other words, it was by the same eternal decree that the Son was to take flesh, that Mary was predestined to give birth to the “Son of the Most High.”  Everything we say about Mary, redounds to God and His plan to manifest His goodness—her soul always “magnifies the Lord.”  To mark this predestination, the Church has always viewed Proverbs 8:22-35 as referring to Our Lady—“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning.  I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made…when He prepared the Heavens was present…when He balanced the foundations of the earth, I was with Him…”

It is God who makes her worthy to be the Mother of God, but only so that she would be empowered to perfectly unite her will to His.  Therefore we cannot look upon Mary simply as consenting to the use of her womb for nine months and little else.  She had first conceived the Son in her soul through a perfect union with the divine will and then conceived Him in her body as St. Augustine said.

Mary’s Divine Motherhood

Mary is no mere figurehead to make Our Lord look “normal.”  He was obedient to her as all children are to their parents.  Unlike all parents however, she was preserved from the possibility of making an error and leading her child into sin.  One can readily see why the singular grace of the Immaculate Conception flows from her calling as Mother as God.  She must be infallible in her decisions and impeccable in her moral example if Our Lord was to submit to her as Mother.  As an aside this is also why some theologians have posited (although the Church has not spoken definitively one way or the other) that St. Joseph too must have at some point been freed from the effects of Original Sin.

One might argue that Our Lord was not obedient to her when He was left behind in Jerusalem.  But the exception proves the rule.  Our Lady was quite perplexed as to why He would do such a thing because she knew Him to be obedient to her in all things.  Our Lord reminds her that when His divine mission came in conflict with His natural sonship, He must always “be about His Father’s business” (Lk 2:49).  Nevertheless, it was still a shock when He appeared to not obey His parents.

The Blessed Mother’s relationship with Jesus is entirely unique and is worthy of our admiration.  He is truly flesh of her flesh and her flesh alone.  All who are in Christ enter into a spiritual or mystical relationship with Him.  Only Our Lady has a relationship based upon a consanguine relationship with Our Lord.  The divine maternity imposes upon God obligations of justice upon Him which confers upon her the natural rights that accompany motherhood.  In other words, she is the only one who God “owes” something to.  Even if  the obligation is self-imposed because of His divine plan, still it is an entirely unique relationship based upon this plan.

This is why we ultimately cannot be in Christ while simultaneously remaining indifferent towards Our Lady.  He extended her motherhood from the natural Son of God to all the adopted sons of God (Jn 19:27).  We cannot be sons of the Father while rejecting the one Whom He chose from all eternity to be our mother.  It is why the Church closes the Octave of Christmas with the great Feast honoring her as Mother of God.  As the Second Vatican Council affirmed, “Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit” (Lumen Gentium, 53).

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.