August 22, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – During this curious period in the history of the Catholic Church, the Roman rite is celebrated according to two different liturgical calendars, the old and the new.
On the old calendar, August 22 is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was established as the culmination of the octave of the Assumption, in order to stress the truth, often preached by the Fathers of the Church, that Our Lady leaves the world not to abandon the Church Militant but, as the Mediatrix of All Graces, to intercede all the more powerfully from her place beside her Son in heaven. Her expansive heart, as wide as the heavens, carries all of us with a mother’s love, and actively assists us. One might say, in short, that the old point of emphasis was her role as intercessor.
On the new calendar, August 22 is the memorial of the Queenship of Mary, which we also call to mind every time we pray the fifth Glorious Mystery. Here, the point of emphasis seems to be the personal glorification of Mary as the terminus of her holiness, her participation in the mystery of her Son, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. I am reminded of a similar contrast in the celebration of the feast of Christ the King: the old feast at the end of October emphasizes the kingship of Christ over this world, including its societies and nations, while the new feast at the end of the November emphasizes the eschatological completion of Christ’s kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth.
Why is the Blessed Virgin Mary our Queen? Always feeling much safer when relying on a worthy authority, in this case I am happy to lean on Blessed Columba Marmion (1858–1923), who writes in his Rosary meditations:
What is the purpose of all the mysteries of Christ? To be the pattern of our supernatural life, the means of our sanctification, the source of all our holiness. To create an eternal and glorious society of brethren who will be like unto Him. For this reason Christ, the new Adam, has associated with Himself Mary, as the new Eve. But she is, much more than Eve, “the Mother of all the living,” the Mother of those who live in the grace of her Son. And since here below Mary was associated so intimately with all the mysteries of our salvation, at her Assumption into heaven Jesus crowned her not only with glory but also with power; He has placed His Mother on His right hand and has given her the power, in virtue of her unique title of Mother of God, to distribute the treasures of eternal life. Let us then, full of confidence, pray with the Church: “Show yourself a Mother: Mother of Jesus, by your complete faith in Him, our Mother, by your mercy towards us; ask Christ, Who was born of you, to give us life; and Who willed to be your Son, to receive our prayers through you.”
Dom Marmion observes that Jesus honors His mother not only with glory, as we celebrated a week ago on the feast of her assumption into heaven, but also with power, as we celebrate on the feast of her actual rulership, sub et cum Christo, over angels and men and—one may dare to say—the entire created order.
It requires little experience with devotional books to lament the fact that, especially in the past 150 years, Catholics have tended to sentimentalize the cultus of the Virgin Mary, in ways that make it rather difficult to imagine her as powerful. Yet she is our queen, our empress, a victorious warrior who has crushed the serpent’s head. Where Mary reigns as queen, her Son reigns as king, for they are inseparable in the plan of salvation; where she reigns not, where her reign is ignored or denied, His royal reign is hampered, for His very identity is obscured and negated. Whoever has a weak or tepid view of Mary and her God-given authority over creatures will have a weak view of her Son and his properly divine authority over creatures. If she is made into a shy, wilting, fearful maiden, her Son will become a teary-eyed, slightly effeminate man—a dishonor done to Him by far too many holy cards and religious paintings.
The fact that Our Lady stood under the cross when nearly everyone else fled, and in the darkness of faith offered up her most precious treasure, her own flesh and blood, to the heavenly Father, means that she had the strongest human heart in the history of the world, with the greatest supernatural heroism. She is rightly called the Queen of Martyrs. There is no martyr, confessor, virgin, or anchoress, no wife, mother, or widow whose virtues the Blessed Virgin did not possess in superabundance, in accordance with the grace of her divine Motherhood, which is the root and perfection of all her privileges.
As our Eastern Christian brethren proclaim in ecstatic prayer:
Mighty conquering warrior, Mother of God, thy servants whom thou hast freed from ills offer up to thee songs of thanksgiving, and with thine unconquerable power, deliver us from all affliction, that we may cry unto thee, hail Bride unwedded!
The liturgy of East and West presents the Holy Theotokos as the archetype of all of God’s creations, the most resplendently holy, noble, worthy, and powerful person God has ever made, fashioned in His wisdom before all the ages and destined to reign forever over the Mystical Body of Christ, the innumerable hosts of angels, the vast throng of men and women saved from the jaws of death by the indomitable faith and unconquered fortitude of the Mother of God. It is no less true that the same Virgin is our gentle and gracious Mother, humble and self-effacing, attentive to God alone, a “little flower” of exquisitely hidden beauty, a “garden enclosed.”
On this day, then, we venerate the might and power of her holiness—and the intimate virtues of her Immaculate Heart that made (and forever make) such might and power possible and real. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, pray for us now and at the hour of our death, Amen.