THE QUEENSHIP OF MARY
Four years after defining the dogma of Mary's Assumption, Blessed Pope Pius XII issued an Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam, proclaiming Mary as the Queen of Heaven. This did not define a dogma, but it was like a sequel to the dogma of the Assumption. Those who pray the Rosary should be familiar with this, for the fourth glorious mystery (The Assumption) is followed by the fifth glorious mystery (The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven).
This doctrine, which teaches that Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven after her bodily Assumption, is also a consequence of Mary's Divine Motherhood. Since she has been intimately associated with Christ in the work of the redemption, it is only right that she also share, in a subordinate way, the royal dignity of her Son. Just as Christ is regarded as our Lord and King (Apoc 19:16), Mary is hailed as our Lady and Queen.
Support from Sacred Tradition
That Mary reigned as Queen of Heaven after her bodily Assumption is not explicitly in the Bible. The only text that seems to hint it is the one we read at the Apocalypse: "And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Apoc 12:1). However, belief in the queenship of Mary is strongly supported in Sacred Tradition.
Through the centuries the Church Fathers, the saints and even ordinary people did not hesitate to call the Virgin Mary Queen long before Blessed Pope Pius formally proclaimed her Queen of Heaven. For example:
St. John Damascene (A.D. 676-750), First Sermon on the Assumption, second to the last paragraph: "We, too, approach thee to-day, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor."
Hermannus Contractus (A.D. 1013-1054) – mathematician, astronomer, musician, chronicler and poet, wrote the song Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above, which is still being sung in Church today:
Hail, holy Queen enthroned above,
Hail, Queen of mercy and of love,
Triumph, all ye Cherubim;
Sing with us, ye Seraphim.
Heav'n and earth resound the hymn:
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (A.D. 1676-1787) – a modern era Doctor of the Church – in The Glories of Mary, Part I, Chapter 1, Section 1, p. 25: "The Holy Church justly honors the great Virgin Mary, and would have her honored by all men with the glorious title of queen, because she has been elevated to the dignity of mother of the King of Kings."
While the idea of Mary's queenship was well accepted in the Catholic Church, many Protestants are surprised and alarmed by this doctrine. Why, they ask, should Mary be honored as Queen of Heaven? She wasn't even the wife of Christ, and is inferior to the angels. Why put her on par with Jesus?
The practice among the Jews is different from the practice in other countries, such as in Great Britain. In the Davidic line of kings the queen is usually not the wife of the king, but his mother. This avoided the difficulty of having too many queens in the kingdom when the king had many wives. In the kingdom of King Solomon, who had 700 wives, the queen was his mother, Bathsabee (or Bathsheba). The Queen Mother, also known as the Gebirah, was an important person in the royal court, and often participated in the affairs of the king (as in 4 Kgs 24:12, 15). She sat on a throne and also wore a crown (Jer 13:18). She was influential to the king, and was often sought by the people to be their advocate or intercessor (as in 3 Kgs 2:12-20). Since Christ was of the family of David, it was therefore in keeping with His family tradition to make His mother Mary the Queen of His Kingdom.
By nature Mary is inferior to the angels. But by dignity and closeness to the three Divine Persons, the angels are inferior to her. Mary has a special relationship with the Blessed Trinity that the angels do not have. She is the daughter of the Father, the mother of the Son, and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. This is why even the angels call her their "Lady." The name "Mary" (or Miriam in Hebrew) was not just a name, but was also a Hebrew word that means "lady." Thus, when the Angel told her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God" (Luke 1:30), the Angel was also properly addressing her with the title that was rightfully hers.
Catholics are sometimes criticized for elevating Mary to be on par with Jesus because Mary is not equal, but subordinate to Christ. But one might wonder if our Lord Himself would not have honored His Queen Mother as much. See how King Solomon treated his Queen mother: "Then Bethsabee came to king Solomon, to speak to him for Adonias: and the king arose to meet her, and bowed to her, and sat down upon his throne: and a throne was set for the king's mother, and she sat on his right hand" (3 Kgs 2:19). (Italics added.) Would Christ be outdone by King Solomon in honoring His mother? It is not too far-fetched to think that Mary would also sit on a throne along side her Son, and reign over His heavenly kingdom. For the Bible says that even the saints will reign in God's Kingdom (2 Tim 2:12) and the Apostles will rule as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28-30).
Coronation of the Virgin
Oil Painting by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)
Image source link: commons.wikimedia.org