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The MOST Theological Collection: Mary in Our Life

"Chapter VII: The Queenship of Mary"


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THE BEGINNINGS of the concept of Mary as Queen appear very early: the opening chapter of St. Luke's Gospel contains clear implications of her Queenship. In the account of the Annunciation, we read that Mary's Son is to be King forever, and Elizabeth at the Visitation salutes her as "the Mother of my Lord." Now if her Son is both Lord and King, surely Mary must be of queenly rank.

The Fathers of the Church were not long in developing these implications. For example, a text that is probably by Origen (+ 254) gives Mary the title Domina.1 Domina is merely the feminine form of the Latin word for Lord, Dominus. We commonly translate it merely as "Lady," but in its fullest sense the word stands for "Sovereign Lady." The same title Domina also appears in many other early writers, such as St. Ephraem, St. Jerome, and St. Peter Chrysologus.2 The word "queen" itself makes its appearance about the sixth century, and becomes common thereafter.3

But there is no need to seek for proof of Mary's queenship. The conclusion is obvious, and spontaneously flows from the dogmatic truths about Mary that we have already learned. It is an idea thoroughly familiar to us in our prayers, such as the Hail, Holy Queen, which we recite after every low Mass.

We may, however, seek to penetrate more deeply into the nature of Mary's Queenship. First of all, we must note that the titles of king and queen may be bestowed in either a metaphorical or a literal sense. In a metaphorical sense, we confer them upon those beings that excel in some way. Thus, for example, we call the lion the king of beasts, the rose the queen of flowers. It is obvious that Mary deserves the title of Queen in this broad sense of the word, for she is the highest of all mere creatures.

But not only in this loose, metaphorical sense is Mary a Queen: in the strictest literal sense also she is a Queen-and for many good reasons, which we shall discuss. Before doing so, however, we may note certain inadequate reasons that have been proposed. These inadequate reasons posit Mary's Queenship: 1. By right of natural inheritance; 2. By right of original justice; 3. By her relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Some theologians have reasoned thus: Mary is the daughter of David, King of Israel, and Jesus is of the same line. Hence, Jesus and Mary have a hereditary right to the throne of Israel. These theologians forget that not every child of a king becomes a king or a queen. Furthermore, it seems likely that Mary descended from David, not through Solomon, who inherited the throne, but through Nathan, who did not inherit it.4 Thus it seems that a claim to merely temporal royalty for Jesus and Mary must be abandoned; but even if such a claim could be proved, it would be a poor title indeed to use for the King and Queen of Heaven.

The second inadequate reason for Mary's Queenship is her freedom from original sin. Some have argued that Adam and Eve possessed a domination over all things, according to the words of God in the book of Genesis:

... let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.5

Now, it is argued, Mary was in the same position of innocence in which Adam and Eve were first created. We readily admit this,6 and recall the New Eve parallel. But the royalty of Adam and Eve was largely metaphorical. Adam was the first head of the race in the sense that all were to descend from him and to inherit God's gifts through him. But he was not king in the sense of having legislative, executive, and judicial power over all humans. We note that the text of Genesis speaks of domination over animals, but not over human beings. There is no mention of a domination over all mankind.

The third inadequate reason is Mary's relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit. She is rightly called the eldest daughter of the Father, and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Hence, it is argued, she shares in their royalty. A perfectly valid argument for the Queenship of Mary can be drawn from her relation to the Son, as we shall see, but her relation to her Son is much different from her relation to the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity. To the Son she is related by real consanguinity, in the first degree and in the direct line; whereas her relations to the Father and the Holy Spirit are only relations of affinity. Therefore, it would seem that although this relation to the other two Persons is indeed glorious, and gives her a peerless eminence, the tide of royalty it confers would be more metaphorical than literal.

Now that we have disposed of these inadequate reasons, it is time to search for the real, the adequate reasons for Mary's title of queen. We are indeed fortunate in that Pope Pius XII had, in recent years, given us a very clear statement on the matter. We have already seen part of it in an earlier chapter, for a related purpose. But it is necessary here to examine it in more detail:

He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of human Redemption as Mother and co-operatrix, she remains forever associated to Him, with an almost unlimited power, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election. And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion.7

Let us analyze this beautiful passage. Pope Pius XII begins by giving the titles by which Christ is King. He is King "by nature and by right of conquest." The Incarnate Word, Christ, is one Person (the Second Person of the Holy Trinity) in two natures: divine and human. These two natures are united in such a way that the two natures remain distinct and not confused; yet there is only one Person. We call this state "hypostatic union." It is necessary to use a special term to describe it, since there is no other example of this kind of union. The union of body and soul to form a mere human being is in a way similar, but, in an ordinary human being, the person is composed of the two elements in such a way that before the union took place, the person did not exist. In the hypostatic union, the Person, a divine Person, always existed, even before the union, from all eternity.

Now Christ, by virtue of the hypostatic union, is King "by nature," for in the fullest and strictest sense of the word, God Himself is the absolute King of all creatures. But in Christ there is only one Person, a divine Person. By very nature that divine Person is King of all. So much for the first title "by nature." As to the second, "by right of conquest," we have already commented on it in chapter III. We noted that it referred to the fact that Christ, by His death, bought the human race back from the captivity of the devil. Hence, having reconquered all, Christ is King "by right of conquest."

In explaining Mary's Queenship, the Pope set down at the outset that she is Queen only "through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him." This qualification is obvious and needs no explanation. Mary's Queenship is fundamentally a participation in the royalty of her Son. But Pope Pius XII went into detail for us by specifying the precise titles on which her royalty rests: "By grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election." Let us consider each title separately.

In saying that Mary is Queen by grace, we have a reason that is valid in both the metaphorical and the literal sense. For Mary is full of grace; yet, as we have explained in chapter II, her capacity and her actual degree of grace continued to grow at a staggering rate throughout her whole life. She is not merely of a wonderfully higher degree of grace than all other creatures, her dignity belongs to the hypostatic order, for it was in her womb that the hypostatic union, in virtue of which her Son is King by nature, was accomplished.

Mary is Queen "by divine relationship." Again, the title is valid in both the broad and the strict sense. In the broad sense it includes Mary's relations to the Father, as His eldest daughter, and to the Holy Spirit, as His spouse-relations of affinity, yet immeasurably great But this divine relationship also, and especially, includes the fact that she is mother of the King. She is, as we have said, literally related to Him in the first degree, in the direct line of consanguinity. Further, since He had no human father, her relation is even more exclusive than that of other mothers. The objection is sometimes raised that, in earthly kingdoms, the queen-mother does not have royal power. This is true, but Mary is more than a mere queen-mother. For she is, as we have noted, the sole human parent. And, what is of special importance: earthly queen-mothers merely give birth to a child who later will become king. Mary gave birth to Him who by very nature, from the very beginning was and is King of all. Hence she is in a position much different from that of an earthly queen-mother.

The next title "by right of conquest" has already been explained in chapter III. We noted that it is parallel to the same title mentioned for the Kingship of Christ-with the proper subordination. It uses the very same words. In reference to Christ, the title is quite familiar: it refers to His redemptive death, the very focal point and essential part of the Redemption. Therefore, in the case of Mary, it must express a co-operation in precisely the same thing: in the redemptive sacrifice on Calvary itself. In other words, it refers to Mary's immediate co-operation in what we have called the objective redemption (the great atonement and once-for-all earning of all graces). Pope Pius XII himself gave us the necessary qualification: "Through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him." We should not presume to add any others.

It is possible to become a temporal king or queen by choice of the people. Jesus and Mary were rejected by their people, but the Father in Heaven accepted them. The second psalm speaks of the appointment of the Messias as King over Sion-meaning, of course, not merely the earthly Sion, but all men:

... I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain.... The Lord hath said to me: "Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession."8

Mary likewise is Queen by divine appointment, by special choice ("singular election") of the Father.

How extensive is Mary's domain? Pope Pius XII tells us: "And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion." Mary rules over the earth: all graces are distributed through her hands. No request that she makes of her Son, the King, is ever refused. She rules over Purgatory: she prompts the faithful on earth to pray for them. She herself applies to them the fruits of the Redemption earned by both Jesus and herself in co-operation. Her Queenship extends even to Hell. The demons are powerless against her. It is especially humiliating for the devil to be beaten by her, for, although he must rightly expect to suffer defeat at the hands of God Himself, it is galling that a mere creature should also foil him so thoroughly. Finally, her Queenship extends to Heaven itself. All who enjoy Heaven do so by virtue of the graces earned by Jesus and Mary in co-operation, as we have seen. Even the just of the Old Law were saved only in anticipation of the merits of Calvary, in which she co-operated. She also contributes to the accidental blessedness of those in Heaven. For though the essential joy there is the direct vision of God, there is accidental happiness also from the presence of the angels and saints, whose Queen is Mary.

Hence we may say that Mary is Queen of all things,9 without limit to her domain, in the strict sense of the word. Let us thank God for giving us a Queen who is par excellence the "Mother of Mercy."


1 See Marian Studies, IV (1953), 87.
2 See ibid., IV, 87-91
3 see ibid., IV, 91-94.
4 see G. M. Roschini, O.S.M, "Royauté de Marie," Du Manoir, Maria, I, 614.
5 Gen. 1:26.
6 Except that Mary, though free of sin, was so only by anticipation of the merits of Christ, while Eve was in need of redemption only after the fall.
7 Radio message to Fatima (May 13,1946), AAS 38:266. Quoted from AER, November, 1949, p. 358.
8 Ps. 2:6-8.
9 In general, see all of Vol. IV of Marian Studies on Mary's Queenship.

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