Have you noticed lately how many girls are wearing T-shirts that say "Princess"? Our culture is drawn to royalty almost as if it were written into our spiritual DNA. Little girls pretend to be princesses; the Home Coming dance is preceded by the election of queen and king; we introduce singers as "The king of pop"; and the Academy Awards take on a feel of royal pageantry. Viewing others as royalty implies that they are different, better or both. In light of our cultural attraction to royalty, I would think that all Christians would delight in calling Mary the "Queen of Heaven." Those who bristle at the thought of ascribing such a royal title to a created being perhaps don't understand the historical background of the role of the queen in the kingdom of God.
When you were just a child, who did you cry out for when you were hurt? I distinctly remember as a child, screaming out in that elongated wail, "Mommmmmmmy!" Even if I was hurt and could save that cry until getting home, the moment I saw my mother the tears began to flow. It's as if I instinctively knew that mom was the only one to comfort and tend to my needs, unlike anyone else. Dad would explain why I got hurt; mom would console me and look into my immediate need. As we approach Christmas I'm reminded of the care Mary gave Jesus even when he was in her womb. I'm amazed that Jesus gave me his mother, what a gift.
Even though we grow older and wouldn't be caught dead screaming "mommy," our need for a mother is still very real. In John 2:1-11, Jesus shows up at a wedding in Cana, accompanied by his mother, Mary. In the midst of the wedding Mary points out to Jesus a "concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance, 'they have no wine'"(Mother of the Redeemer, Pope John Paul II. No. 21).
From the very beginning of the Church, Mary has held an esteemed place as the "Mother of God" and the mother of all who believe. It was at the cross that Jesus gave himself completely. A part of his complete gift to us was the gifting of his mother to us (John 19:26-27), the same mother that raised him and comforted him as a child. Her role in the kingdom of God is unique, as she has been given to believers as a spiritual mother who intercedes and acts as an advocate on their behalf. Mary is in a real way what we are all to become, someone who is without sin and in total union with the will of God. What many do not understand is that the role of Mary as the "Queen of Heaven" is not an invention of the Catholic Church, but the continuation of a role established clear back in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Western culture understands that the queen of a kingdom is the wife of the king, but in the days of the Bible, the "Queen" was understood as the mother of the king. We see that in Solomon's life he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. There was only one person in Solomon's life that was unique, and that was his mother. The mother of the king was celebrated as a unique position in relation to the king. In the Old Testament (1 Kings 2:13-20; 1 Kings 15:9-13; Jeremiah 13:18-20) we see that the Queen Mother was an actual office in the Kingdom known as the Gebirah. She was an intercessor and advocate for the people of God and was given responsibility for the care of the people. While the Queen Mother was not mentioned often, she nevertheless played an important role in the relationship between the people and the king.
Pope John Paul clarified so well what took place at the wedding of Cana and offers us encouragement in our own lives. In John's text, "the description of the Cana event outlines what is actually manifested as a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary's solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs" (Mother of the Redeemer. No. 21).
Pope John Paul II pointed out that Mary's statement has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself in the middle, that is to say she acts as a mediatrix--not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she has the right to do so" (no. 21).
What are your "wants, needs and sufferings?" Even as adults we are hurt, bruised and confused. Take advantage of the wonderful gift God has given to you, a Queen Mother who cares. Yes, it's true that you are no longer a child, but you have not lost the need for direction and comfort. Go ahead; cry out to your heavenly mother. She cares.
A Couple of Things To Do:
1. Take some time this week to pray the rosary. The rosary beats the rhythm of human life and you can find aspects of your life in the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries. Your heavenly mother will take you through the life of Christ and intercede for you. She did an excellent job raising Jesus so let her help you.
2. Make a list of your wants, needs and sufferings. Remember that a mother notices every detail in the life of her child--therefore nothing is too small. Take this list to Mary in prayer and trust in her intercession.
How has the Blessed Virgin Mary brought comfort to you? Feel free to enter your comments.
Mary, Ark of the Covenant
This Fall I've been teaching the book of Revelation in the Twin Cities. Today we spoke about "the woman" in chapter 12. I had mentioned that many times on my travels to Israel I was inspired by a statue of Mary on top of a church in the ancient city of Kyriat Yearim (Abu Gosh). The statue depicts Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant. The Old Testament Ark was in Kyriat Yearim for twenty years before Israel brought the Ark to Jerusalem.
There are some striking parallels between David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6:1-19 and St. Luke's account of Mary's visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56.
In 2 Samuel 6:2, "David arose and went" to Judah.
In Luke 1:39, "Mary arose and went" to the hill country of Judea.
In 2 Samuel 6:9, David cries out: "How can the ark of the Lord come to me?"
In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth asks: "Why is it granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
In 2 Samuel 6:14-15, David is found leaping and dancing before the ark of the covenant.
In Luke 1:41-44, the baby in Elizabeth's womb is leaping for joy in Mary's presence.
In 2 Samuel 6:11, the ark of the covenant remained at the house of Obededom for three months.
In Luke 1:56, Mary (the new Ark of the Covenant) remained at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah for three months.
Another interesting comparison between the Old Testament ark and the New Ark (Mary) is that the Old Testament ark contained a bowl of manna, the two tablets of stone (10 Commandments) and Aaron's budding rod (speaking of his authority). In Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant we find Jesus, the living bread from heaven, the Word made flesh and the King of Kings and Lord of Lord's.