According to Martin Luther, “The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.” Wait! Stop the presses! Is this the same Martin Luther that incited the Protestant Reformation with his 95 theses? Yes. Martin Luther recognized the significance of Mary. In a sermon on September 1st, 1522, he made that claim (http://catholicbridge.com/catholic/martin-luther-on-mary.php).
Veneration refers to honor. Catholics honor Mary because she is the Mother of God. In this 13th installment of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D., we will examine another important Marian theme— her as Queen of Heaven. Old Testament queens prefigured the intercessory role of Mary. We will also look at New Testament evidence supporting Mary as Queen. Lastly, evidence from Sacred Tradition will be outlined to demonstrate the significance of Mary’s title as Queen of Heaven.
Old Testament—Queen Figures
In ancient times, queens acted as a mediator between the king and the people. Understanding the role of the queen in the time of the Old Testament requires use to examine the culture during that time. We cannot determine the queen’s authority based on current governmental structures. According to George F. Kirwin in his work Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,
I believe that Mary is best understood as the “Gebirah,” the Queen-Mother
who as mother and queen is intimately associated with Jesus in the establishment
and maintenance of God’s kingdom among the men and women of this world.
It is the formality of motherhood which best describes her relationship with
her Son, the King, and with his subjects, members of God’s redeemed people
who form the Church of New Testament times (p. 9).
The most famous queen-mother in the Old Testament is Bathsheba—mother of Solomon. Her role as advocate for the people is evident in 1 Kings 2:19-20: “Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. 20She said, ‘There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.’ The king said to her, ‘Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.'” Kirwin points out that although the queen-mother did not exist at the beginning of the Israelite monarchy that Bathsheba certainly was the first in this role (Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother, p. 30).
Along with Bathsheba’s intercessory role in the Old Testament, she even is implicitly mentioned within the genealogy of Jesus. According to Father Johann Roten, S.M., “In Matthew’s genealogy, without mentioning her name, (1:6) Bathsheba is described as the “wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is essential to the genealogy in Matthew” (Old Testament Types of Mary). Such a reference hints at the importance of the queen-mother (Mary) as an advocate— later in the Gospels and throughout Church history!
Another example of a queenly figure is Queen Esther. Just like Bathsheba, Esther intervenes on behalf of her people. “Esther is the heroine and is the paradigm for a fully liberated woman who places all her confidence in God. Through prayer and fasting she is able to challenge the evil perpetrated by the Persians and to intercede for her people Israel before King Ahasuirus,” writes Fr. Roten (Old Testament Types of Mary). Esther’s trust in God mirrors Mary’s faith in the Holy Spirit (cf Luke 1:38).
New Testament Hintings
While clear examples from the Old Testament point to the authority of the queen within Israelite government, the New Testament does specifically call out Mary as queen. As Monsignor Ferdinand Vandry put, “Although the Scriptures afford our faith no clear testimony of Mary’s queenship, nor of its universal nature, that dignity of the Mother of God is nevertheless acknowledged unanimously by Christian tradition (The Nature of Mary’s Universal Queenship). John’s Gospel presents Jesus as a king. Not specifically mentioned Mary as queen we can deduce her role as queen-mother because she is mother of Jesus.
Kirwin discusses the need to view Scripture as a whole in order to truly see Mary’s queenly role. He purports in Queenship of Mary — Queen-Mother,
Peinador believes that if there is any hint of Mary’s queenly prerogatives
in the text of the Apocalypse, this will depend upon the relationship one can
establish between it and the Proto-gospel. In order to show how the Protogospel supports the doctrine of Mary’s queenship it is necessary to insist upon
the victory over sin and death and as a result the establishment of a kingdom
on the part of Christ and Mary. He has no doubts about the Marian sense of
Genesis 3:15. There Mary is depicted as the partner of the divine Redeemer in
the battle and victory over their common enemy and consequently we find in
this text the foundation for her queenship (p. 36).
Thus, isolating Mary’s intercessory role from the Old Testament foreshadowings and lens of Sacred Tradition limits our ability to view her as queen-mother. Next, we will examine how the Church viewed Mary as queen.
From the beginning of the Church, Christians always viewed Mary as the Mother of God. During the 4th century, a rampant heresy called Nestorianism rejected that claim. To clear up any confusion, the Council of Ephesus in 431 formally declared Mary as the Mother of God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 495, referencing the fourth ecumenical council,
Called in the Gospels ‘the mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as ‘the mother of my Lord’.144 In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).
St. Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary) logically flows from the Council of Ephesus’ charge as Mary as Theotokos (the God-bearer). Pius XII declared, “In this matter We do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary’s queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth, and are to be found in ancient documents of the Church and in the books of the sacred liturgy (no. 6). Lumen Gentium points out Mary’s role as queen as well, “exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death (no. 59).
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 22nd, 2012 Audience, “Mary is Queen because she is uniquely conformed to her Son, both on the earthly journey and in heavenly glory. Ephrem the Syrian, Syria’s great saint, said of Mary’s queenship that it derives from her motherhood: she is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6) and she points Jesus out to us as our life, our salvation and our hope.”
Old Testament queens Bathsheba and Esther prefigured the intercessory authority of Mary as queen-mother. The proto-evangelium of Genesis 3:15 foreshadowed the battle between the Woman (Mary) and Satan. As partner to the King of the Universe (Jesus), Mary rightly is called Queen of the Universe (Redemptoris Mater, no. 41). Catholics honor Mary because she brings us closer to her Son! Benedict XVI wrote, “The title “Queen” is thus a title of trust, joy and love. And we know that the One who holds a part of the world’s destinies in her hand is good, that she loves us and helps us in our difficulties.” Let us thank God for the gift of our Queen, Mary Mother of God!