Summary: We call Mary Queen of Heaven because she was first the servant of God in imitation of the God who became servant of all
Let us confidently draw close to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and discover grace at the time we need help. These words of the letter to the Hebrews–which were also incorporated into Archbishop Gomez’s coat of arms–were the keynotes to today’s celebration of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, greatest of all the saints. With your indulgence I today begin a new homily series–the Testimony of the Saints.
Mary is called “Queen of the Universe” in that magnificent 8th chapter of the Constitution on the Church. She is queen, the Council Fathers tell us, so that she might be “the more fully conformed to Her Son, the Lord of Lords and the conqueror of sin and death. This celebration is the annual recitation, so to speak, of the fifth glorious mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Since we are formed in Western history, which derived from Greece and Rome primarily, we can’t get our arms well around the Jewish notion of Queen. For ancient Greek and Roman citizens, a Queen was the consort of the King. In the Semitic world, however, the King had many wives and concubines, so that there might be many sons and daughters to marry off by treaties and to succeed to the throne. Women in that pre-Christian time had value only as wives and mothers, a barbaric custom that the Christian faith eventually triumphed over. But if you read the Books of Kings, you will see that, alongside the king of Judah, sat either his mother or his grandmother. She was the Queen Mother, and advised the king. The problem was that these women were often foreigners, and worshipers of foreign gods. So Solomon had many wives, and one of these was Naamah the Ammonite. Her son was Rehoboam, grandson of David and king of Judah. Surrounded by bad advisors, Rehoboam became an awful king, like almost all of his heirs.
The situation was even worse in the northern kingdom, Israel, where the king frequently was supplanted in a coup d’etat, where most kings gave up their throne by being assassinated. There, with no succession, there was almost never a true Queen Mother. When there was a queen at all, it was some monster like Jezebel, the king’s wife, who counseled evil like theft and murder.
Now contrast the Queen Mother we celebrate today, Mary, Mother of Jesus. Unlike most of the Queen Mothers of Judah, she was a pious virgin, dedicated only to doing God’s will. Look at her first action after the angel appeared to her. She went in haste to help her cousin Elizabeth, elderly and pregnant. Her first words to Elizabeth declare that her glory is to be the servant of the Lord, his handmaiden. She then spent thirty years serving her Lord and Son, Jesus, and helping Him to become the perfect human.
The servant, Mary, imitated the servant God, who humbled Himself to be seen as a mere carpenter in a nothing town. The human nature of Jesus, then, learned servant leadership by watching his mother and his foster father, Joseph. Jesus and Mary are King and Queen because they first became servants of humankind. This is the lesson all of us who aspire to any kind of leadership–and that’s one of the gifts given to all at baptism and confirmation. If we are to be kings and queens in the kingdom of God, we must first learn to serve, and especially to serve the poor and marginalized. Mary now intercedes for us with the Father so that we can be exactly that–servant leaders in the spirit of Jesus and Mary.