As I noted in my article defending Padre Pio’s miraculous stigmata, if the belief is Catholic and traditional, you can bet that my friend, Pastor Joe, a Pentecostal minister, will be against it.
The latest missive I received from him accuses Catholics of idolatry for giving honor to Our Lady under her title “Queen of Heaven.”
Still choking, I hope, on all the camels he has swallowed from my past rebuttals, albeit still in denial, he now finds a new “gnat” to strain out in his obsession to indict the One True Church.
Yes, he finds the condemnation of our honoring Mary as Queen of Heaven in Jeremias.
Indeed, especially in chapter 44, the prophet does excoriate, over and over, the remnant of Jews exiled with him in Egypt, in particular the women, for worship of a queen of heaven. Not all of the exiles were guilty, but a lot of them were. Enough for God to rouse the indignation of Jeremias against them. These Jews had been routed from Jerusalem, along with our prophet, by the Persians in the 6th century B.C. The women, in particular, were “sacrificing” cakes and libations to an Egyptian goddess named Asherah, whom they were worshipping as “queen of heaven.” The same is Isis, their goddess of the moon. Appropriately, the woman carved the cakes into a crescent shape. (Now you know another origin for the word lunatic.) The Moslems, it seems, were not original in their adoption of the crescent moon and star. To be accurate, they did not adopt the symbol until the Turks used it for their Ottoman Empire emblem sometime in the early fifteenth century.
By the same token, shall we, Pastor Joe, refrain from calling God “the Father” because the pagan Romans worshiped the principal deity under that title. Jupiter, literally, means “Zeus Father”? I know, I know, Saint Paul in many places speaks of God the Father. Therefore, the comparison fails because it’s in the Bible. C’est la vie. I withdraw the point — to an extent, that is. What still stands is that the pagans called God “Father” Zeus. And, by Our Lord’s command, Christians call God “ Our Father.” And there is no problem here. So why is there a problem with giving the Mother of God the title “Queen of Heaven” when we have no intention of worshipping Ashera?
It is not beyond our scope here to note that the Protestant heresiarchs, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, all defended the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady’s perpetual virginity. Hear Luther: “The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.” In his last sermon in 1546 Luther said: “This is the woman who crushed the serpent’s head . . . For your Son denies you nothing.” They write nothing against her Queenship, or her bodily Assumption. Can we not assume that they so honored her “Queen of Heaven”?
Let’s take a quick survey of queenship in the Old Testament.
Here are some related passages:
“The daughters of kings have delighted thee in thy glory. The queen stood on thy right hand, in gilded clothing; surrounded with variety” (Psalm 44:10).
The Jews, of course, had their queens, good and bad ones. In the same inspired book that Pastor Joe employs, we read: “After that Jechonias the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, and the princes of Juda, and of Jerusalem, and the craftsman, and the engravers were departed out of Jerusalem” (Jeremias 29:2).
And, what shall we say of Queen Esther? She was a figure of Our Lady because she saved her people from destruction. Her story is told in the Book of Esther of the Old Testament.
Although Abraham was not a king, he was considered royal by his friendly hosts, the Hethites — a “prince” in fact. And we are defending not only queenship but royalty as we have it throughout the Bible.
And Sara lived a hundred and twenty-seven years. And she died in the city of Arbee which is Hebron, in the land of Chanaan: and Abraham came to mourn and weep for her. And after he rose up from the funeral obsequies, he spoke to the children of Heth, saying: I am a stranger and sojourner among you: give me the right of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead. The children of Heth answered, saying: ‘My Lord, hear us, thou art a prince of God among us: bury thy dead in our principal sepulchres: and no man shall have power to hinder thee from burying thy dead in his sepulchre’” (Genesis 23, my bold).
Now, let’s return to the subject in question: to Our Lady, Queen of Heaven.
The first thing my pastor friend gets wrong is that he confuses the celestial luminaries above us with the home of the blessed in eternity. The moon is in its place orbiting the earth. And, of course, the stars are high above in the heavens. But the heaven of which Our Lady is Queen is not that of Asherah, but the “Kingdom of Heaven” where Jesus reigns with His saints. What the idolatrous Jewish women were adoring was not the abode of anyone, but a thing that gives us the reflected light of the sun at night. Maybe not as bad as worshiping an idol made by human hands, but still idolatry, giving worship to a piece of rock, a beautiful round rock, but a rock. The moon, however, is symbolic of Our Lady in that she filters the radiance of the Son of God, reflecting His brilliance, and making Him more conformable to our dull intellects. “Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?” (Canticles 6:9). Saint Louis Marie de Montfort (+1716) applies the verse to Mary: “She is not the sun, which by the brightness of its rays blinds us because of our weakness; but she is fair and gentle as the moon, which receives the light of the sun, and tempers it to make it more suitable to our capacity.”
And where is the moon in Marian iconography? Under her feet. So, she appears in the Book of Apocalypse and so she appeared and still appears on the tilma of Saint Juan Diego in Mexico. This sign, given to the pagan Aztecs, manifested that the holy woman of Guadalupe was greater than the moon or the sun which shines behind her in the Miraculous Image. Their gods were devils.
It would seem to any one without bias that Our Lady’s title of Queen is most fitting. She is the Mother of Christ the King. My pastor friend is quick to assure me that Jesus is certainly our King. And that His reign is forever. This, as he says, is clearly affirmed in the Gospels, even by Our Savior Himself. I asked him why then does he not honor Mary, either as “Blessed Virgin-Mother” or as “Queen” reigning as Queen-Mother with her Son? Our Lady’s Magnificat canticle, particularly the verse “Behold all generations shall call me blessed,” gives Pastor Joe a problem. And that prophecy is ex clara scriptura (clear in scripture). He had no answer for why he refuses to call the Mother of God “Blessed Mary,” but, as I noted, he assumes having a real “Queen of Heaven” is like the idolatry condemned by Jeremais.
I doubt that my Pentecostal friend would accept the authority of Saint Athanasius (or any other father of the Church) but the saint from Alexandria (296 to 373), in Egypt by the way, writes “If the Son is a King, the mother who begot Him is rightly and truly considered a queen and sovereign.” (de Deipera, on the Godbearer). Common sense, right? One would think having a Queen-Mother in Heaven would be a cause of great joy. One would think so.
Saint Ephrem the Syrian (+373) writes in the person of Mary: “‘Let Heaven sustain me in its embrace, because I am honored above it.’ For heaven was not Thy mother, but Thou hast made it Thy throne. How much more honorable and venerable than the throne of a king is his mother.” And in another place he thus prays to her: “. . . Majestic and Heavenly Maid, Lady, Queen, protect and keep me under your wing lest Satan the sower of destruction glory over me, lest my wicked foe be victorious against me.”
Our Lady has always been honored as Queen since apostolic times, especially in the East. In the West, the great hymn Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) was composed in the late eleventh century by Blessed Herman the Cripple. It soon became part of the liturgy and was sung in the divine office. Its main promoter in the West was Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153). Over time, popular devotion added it at the end of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII added it, the prayer to Saint Michael, and the O God Our Refuge to the Prayers after Low Mass
Much has been written in varying articles on our website honoring Mary as Queen of Heaven, but none so specifically and exhaustively as that of Charles Coulombe. You can read this excellent study of the devotion and its history here.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a court royale. We have Christ our King, Mary our Queen, and we also have a Prince of the heavenly host. Who might that be? Saint Michael, of course. It’s in the Book of Daniel, clara scriptura Pastor Joe.
“But I will tell thee what is set down in the scripture of truth: and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:21).
And, again: “But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come such as never was from the time that nations began even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
The prophet calls Michael “one of the chief princes.” So, there are others.
Saint Paul, who knew a lot about angels, speaks of thrones, dominions, and principalities in the celestial realm. (Colossians 1:16).
Yes, indeed Heaven is a court royale. Our King would have nothing less in His kingdom. As Saint Paul tells Timothy, “[T]he saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12a, my emphasis). And, as Saint John saw in vision concerning the martyrs “Then I saw thrones” (Apoc. 20:4).
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apocalypse 12:1).
I expect that pastor Joe will argue that this verse refers to the Church not to Mary. Indeed it does refer to the Church I will respond. So, say the early fathers of the Church. But the fathers also say that the passage redounds as well to the glory of the Mother of the Church, Mary. Pope Pius XII affirms the same in his encyclical, Munifentissimus Deus, in which he defined the bodily Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven:
“Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos” (#27).
The fathers also point out that this verse from the Apocalypse is preceded by the Apostle’s vision of the temple of the heavenly Jerusalem and the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark, which was hidden by Jeremais over five hundred years before, was considered by the fathers to be a figure of Our Lady, the Ark of God, the Theotokos, in whose womb rested the divine Manna, the Bread of Life. “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.” (Psalm 131:8).
Note, too, that this is why the passage from the Apocalypse is read at the Mass for the Solemnity of the Assumption on August 15.
Not that our pastor friend will be convinced by anything proclaimed by Pope Pius XII, but, in 1954, he also blessed the Church with an encyclical ad Caeli Reginam honoring Our Lady as Queen of Heaven. That was issued on the feast of the Divine Maternity, October 11:
From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.
I also might add that the Second Vatican Council in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) taught, “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of Original Sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death” (No. 59). In making this statement, the Council referenced the passage from Revelation on the “great sign [that] appeared in heaven.” (my bold emphasis)
Lastly, a word about the feast day for Our Lady Queen of Heaven and Earth. In the old liturgical calendar the feast is celebrated on August 22. Actually, when the feast was established by Pope Pius XII in 1954 he set the date for its celebration on the same day as that of the Divine Maternity, October 11. It was later moved to August 22 in order to enhance the Church’s devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, co-celebrated this day, thereby so wonderfully magnifying her universal Queenship.
According to Pastor Joe the prophet Jeremias was warning about an abuse that would arise in Christian times, namely these latter times. The pastor, I assume, had no clue that the Queenship of Mary was honored throughout Christendom in every age. It is astonishing that he thinks Jeremias had us Catholics in mind, Catholics such as Saint Athanasius of Egypt and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to mention only two. I can only imagine what he thinks of Pope Pius XII and his definition of the bodily Assumption of Mary (and corresponding Coronation).
So, there you have it. In this year 2019, Pastor Joe has figured out what Jeremias was most worried about back in the sixth century B.C. I say “most” worried about. And it wasn’t the “sacrifices” of the idolatrous Jewish women as much as it was the future cultus of Marian devotees.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, Amen.