Friday, May 4, 2012
Our Lady, Queen and Mother
August 22 is the feast day of the Queenship of Mary. In this month dedicated to her honor it might be helpful to see why she is so significant in the life of every Christian. Edward Sri has written an article titled "Treat her like a Queen-The Biblical call to Honor Mary as Royal Mother." The article is in the book Catholic For a Reason II edited by Scott Hahn and Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. Sri notes: "You probably have seen this many times before. You're watching a big football game on national television, and some star player scores a clutch touchdown. His teammates quickly surround him jumping up and down together for a grand celebration of male bonding in the end zone. At the height of the celebration, when the TV zooms in for a close-up, you see him look into the camera and scream two words: 'Hi mom!' Youv'e got to womder: Many of these football players probably have wives or girlfriends at home watching them on TV. Why don't these guys say 'hi'to them/ Why is it that mom always seems to receive the special attention? We find a similar situation in ancient Israel. Even then, mothers were singled out for special treatment by their sons, especially in the royal household of the kingdom of Judah. Among all the ladies in the kingdom, there was no one more honored than the king's mother. Even the king's wife could not compete with the prestigious role of the mother. What made the mother of the king so special? In the Davidic monarchy, as well as other ancient kingdoms in the Near East, the king's mother held the most important office in this royal court. She influenced political, economic, and liturgical affairs in the kingdom, and she played a key part in the process of dynastic succession. What is most striking, however, is the fact that she even ruled as queen. It was not the king's wife who held the queenship, but his mother. (Just ask Raymond from the show Everyone loves Raymond!...my interjection...0) The great preeminence of the king's mother may seem odd from our modern Western perspective. Today, we generally think of a Queen as being the wife of a king. However, when we consider the fact that most ancient Near Eastern kings practiced polygamy and had large harems,the idea of a queen Mother makes a lot of sense. Think of King Solomon who had 700 wives (1 Kings 11:3). Imagine the chaos in the royal court if all 700 wives were awarded the Queenship! But since each king had only one mother, one can see the practical wisdom in bestowing the queenship upon her. This background is crucial for understanding what the bible teaches about Mary's queenship. If we searched the scriptures for a royal woman like the queens in modern western monarchies, we won't find her. Yet, once we grasp the biblical concept of Queen Mother, Mary's royal office will jump off the pages of the New Testament and call us to a profound relationship with our Queen Mother in the Kingdom of Jesus. In the Davidic Kingdom, when a new king assumed the throne, his mother was given the special title gebirah, which in Hebrew means 'great lady' or 'queen.' As Queen Mother, she possessed the second most powerful position in the kingdom-second only to the king himself. Since the Queen mother was both the wife of the previous monarch and the mother of the current king, she stood as a symbol of the king's royalty, tying him to his father's royal blood. In this sense, she guaranteed the legitimacy of the king's place in the dynastic line of succession....(On the throne the Queen mother represented the King's continuity with the past, the visible affirmation of God's ongoing plan for His people, the channel through which the Lord's dynastic promise to David was fulfilled) A number of Old Testament passages reflect the important role of the Queen mother in the Davidic Kingdom. For example, take the Books of 1 & 2 Kings. These books tell about the various monarchs who ruled over the Israelites. Strkingly, almost every time the narrative introduces a new King in Judah it mentions the Queen mother as well, highlighting her role in dynastic succession...............Probably the best example of the queen mother's importance would be that of Bathsheba, the wife of David and mother of Solomon. A number of scholars have noted the preeminence of Bathsheba's position in the kingdom once she became queen mother during Solomon's rule. Compare, on one hand, the humble attitude of Bathsheba as spouse of King David, and on the other hand, her majestic dignity when she becomes mother of the next king, Solomon. When she was simply the spouse of King David, Bathsheba approached the king like most subjects in the kingdom would: She bowed with her face to the ground and honored her husband David when she entered his royal chamber (1 Kings 1: 16-17, 31). But something different happened when her son Solomon assumed the throne and she became the queen mother. Notice the glorious reception she received when meeting with her royal son. (So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then she sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king's mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, 'I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.' And the king said to her,'Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.) (1 Kings 2: 19-20) The account reveals the sovereign prerogatives of the Queen Mother. Before, when she was just the spouse of the King, she had to bow before David. Now, as queen mother, it is the King who rose and bowed to greet her! But that's not all. After this royal greeting, King Solomon did something even more remarkable. He gave his mother Bathsheba a seat at his right hand. This was not a simple courtesy of offering his mother a chair. This action was charged with royal symbolism. In the Bible, the right hand is the ultimate place of honor. For example Psalm 110 describes how the Messiah will sit at God's right hand and rule over all nations. Similarly, the book of Hebrews portrays Christ as sitting at the right hand of the Father, ruling over all creation, exalted above all angels and saints (Heb. 1:13) As such, Solomon does not offer the Queen mother any ordinary seat. Rather, he gives her the most powerful position he could offer in the entire kingdom. Sitting at the king's right hand, the queen mother clearly has a unique share in the king's royal authority." Wow! What does this mean for us on our pilgrimmage to the heart of the Father. It means that Mary, our Queen Mother, is no mere saint among saints. If we take this biblical view we see she clearly has authority in the spiritual realm. After all, was not our salvation dependent upon the free answer of the virgin? In a marvellous homily St. Bernanrd of Clairvaux speaks about how Adam, Eve, and everyone who had died were waiting for her simple answer: what will it be? Thanks to her Fiat! salvation is now possible for all who open themselves to her Son. The deference that is shown is also telling. In the persons of the Trinity no one ranks first. I realize that boggles our modern minds which are so accustomed to paradigms of power. In the royal court, however, it is the mutual deference which defines the relationship. Also, the king loses nothing of his power in conferring some of his authority upon His mother. In fact, it increases it. It is like C S Lewis' definition of the love of friendship. He defines it as the most inclusive of loves. Lovers are face to face he says. It is an exclusive relationship. Friends, however, are side by side looking out. When they see another friend coming they say "come join us!...your presence will increase our joy and our love." This is how it is in the Communion of Saints. Dante in his Paradiso compares heaven to a yellow-petalled rose with all the saints on the petals singing their praises to God. As you come to the inner most chamber you will find Our Lady. Do not be afraid that giving honor and homage to Our Lady will somehow take away from the honor due to God Alone. She keeps nothing for herself. In honoring her you honor the Queen Mother. We know how Solomon honored his mother. We know how Jesus honored his mother when her gave her to us at the cross "Behold, your mother." Give her all your prayer intentions, your hopes, your aspirations and rest assured you have a mother and queen who will due anything to make you become ever more like her son, Jesus Christ!