Maybe I am too much immersed in the egalitarian and anti-hierarchical ethos of the United States, but for several years I have had problems with this feast day, the Queenship of Mary, and the corresponding mystery of the Rosary, the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
I also have had some problems with the feast of Christ the King, but these have been assuaged by the words of Jesus, Matthew 20:25-28
… the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them… But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
And so when I speak of Jesus as prophet, priest, and king, I often use the term “servant/king.”
But Mary as Queen? It reminds me too much of royalty, of class privilege, of power over others.
Yet recently I have been led to think about Marry as Queen in another way.
In the list of saints there are quite a few queens, among them: Margaret of Scotland, Hedwig of Poland, Elizabeth of Hungary, and Elizabeth of Portugal.
Reading about them, I find that there are three aspects of their lives that reveal true Christian royalty.
First of all, they have a special love for the poor and personally distributed food to the poor, often to the consternation of their husbands. Some established hospitals and houses for the poor.
Saint Margaret of Scotland invited several dozen beggars to dinner each night, serving them and washing their feet.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary once opened the king’s granaries to feed the poor when her husband was away. She also refused to eat any food that was the product of injustice or exploitation.
These women took seriously the call to the works of mercy in Matthew 25: 31-46.
Secondly, these holy queens often are involved in evangelization, mostly by providing funding for the building of churches.
Thirdly, they are most often peacemakers, sometimes between members of their own families. Saint Elizabeth of Portugal is a patron saint of peacemakers, known for her reconciliation of her husband with one of her sons and for preventing a war between Portugal and Castile.
These holy women saw Christ in the poor, they wanted to share the message of Christ, and they worked for peace. Their royal character was revealed in their love of Christ, the poor, and peace.
But then what is the royalty of Mary?
Isn’t this what she prays in the Magnificat, Luke 1: 46-55:
My soul glorifies the Lord….
You look on your servant in her nothingness;
henceforth all ages shall call me blessed….
You put forth your arm in strength
and scatter the proud-hearted.
You cast the mighty from their thrones
and raise up the lowly.
You fill the starving with good things
and send the rich away empty….
And so I think of Mary as queen with two rather distinctive images.
The first is Mary with children and the poor under her cloak that may have first come from the Middle Ages.
This reminds me of the stories about some saintly women who were distributing food to the poor to the consternation of the king. When he confronted them, they opened their cloaks and flowers poured out.
The other image is a more contemporary one, Mary who raises her arms against oppression. She is the queen of the oppressed.
Mary, mother of the poor, queen of peace, evangelizer of the Good News of God’s liberation, pray for us.