A personal reflection on Mary as Queen of Humanity.
I have always figured I'd probably post this at the beginning of a Rosary or something. Anyway it's not particularly great but it is the backbone of my personal Marian belief. I hope you find it at least entertaining.
Mary the Mother of Humanity.
In the Modern era, the world feels like the world/the Church is on the precipice of destruction. Maybe it is no closer than at any other time but now with instant telecommunications, nuclear weapons, globalization, poverty and disease things feel as though life itself might soon be run off the rails. If the world ever needed someone to come to its aid and intercede for it, that time is now and more than ever before it is in need of its mother. It is time to see Mary for what she is, the Mother of Humanity. She begs for the faithful to look to her Son and the best way to do that is to emulate her. She is the Queen of Humanity because she brought the Creator into human history where he walked with us and ultimately offered himself up for us. Second, she is Queen of the history because her total abandonment to the Creator’s will shows modernity the path forward thru the pain and fear toward a tomorrow of hope. Finally, she is the Queen of Humanity because she points toward a leadership that does not seek power for itself but for the divine.
There is no symbol in the Catholic pantheon that is more beloved and misunderstood than that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Protestants worry that she is being elevated to a fourth member of the Trinity while Catholics rush to the defense of their mother. While the Protestant response is rooted in a legitimate concern for the sacredness of the Mystery of the Trinity, it finds it’s problems in the reduction of this Mystery to something that exists almost solely on the supernatural level of existence. The Christian faith, however, is rooted in a God that has become a man, and the key to this belief found in the acquiescence of a young woman. This woman's “yes” to God created the gateway for the Divine to mix with the mundane, and ultimately the salvation of humanity.
This “key to humanity” that is the Blessed Virgin finds its champion in the Catholic Church, who has a faith steeped in tradition and antiquity. The hypnotic smells of incense and soft beauty of the Mass, like many Catholic customs and traditions, are rooted so far back that the faithful has often come to take them for granted. While these traditions are avenues for good, one of the dangers associated with them is that they often don’t feel real. This applies especially to the Saints in general and the Blessed Mother who, after millennia of devotion, can sometimes seem as though they are two-dimensional characters that lack the depth to understand the struggles of those of us in this world. The irony of this situation should not be lost that this two-dimensional image could not be further from the truth concerning any of the Saints, but most importantly the Blessed Mother. Possibly more than any other in the Catholic pantheon she can reach out from beyond the ages and help humanity make sense of itself in the modern world. The bold statement of what had to be a frightened young girl rings out through history, “ May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) in such a manner that history should stand and applaud. Without this bravery, the truth is that Christianity could never have come to exist. For the God of the Christian understanding does not sit in some far off Olympus, but rather entered into human history clothed in mortal skin. Rather than taking the form of a Caesar who could mandate that the people love him, instead, he became a simple man who would build that love through trust and sacrifice which although much slower to make could last forever. This divine plan, however, could not have found it’s foothold without first receiving the consent of Mary.
Because of this need to be among his creation, the Lord of the Universe required this someone to say “yes” to his divine will. This actual event ties the faithful to a worldview linked to realism and forces us to retreat from myth into the sometimes all to messy world. Paul Haffner tells us that, “Mariology guarantees a realist basis for the whole of theology since Mary is the guarantee of the reality of the Incarnation, which is itself the base for all realism. The mystery of God the Son coming at a fixed point in time and assuming what He had created adds to a realist appreciation of time and matter. It is no longer possible to escape up the blind alleys of cyclic notions of time, of pantheistic concepts of matter, of idealistic notions of reality. All-time, all history, all matter, all space, radiate from the moment when God the Son took human flesh" (Haffner 3).
God’s creation tends to be messy. It is through that messiness is given meaning through its creator entering into it because it is no longer apart from its source rather creation cradles the creator. It is here that dignity is offered to the creation because it becomes a protector of the divine and in this case, it is most definitely true for women. In feminine dignity, the nourishing of a family takes shape. First, through being pregnant; and then through the willingness to suffer pain through birth. Just as importantly, though, it is the mother who more often than not shows us how to love and demonstrates sacrifice. In the messiness of creation this “order of love” comes to us from women in general and mothers in particular, and has in its roots the life of the Trinity because that is who it imitates. Saint John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem reminds us of this when he says, “woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root. The order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the life of the Trinity” (MD, 29).
If this applies to all women, then how much more so of the one woman whose love nourished God himself? She raised him, and it was through her unselfishness that not only Christ entered the world, but learned about it. The reality is that without seeing Christ as learning through his mother's love, we turn him into Zeus — a God without a human nature. It was Mary who sacrificed her good name. It was Mary who could have been stoned for adultery, and it is Mary who would have sacrificed her ability to spend time at the local synagogue and would have been barred from worshiping there for the rest of her life. It would have been impossible for devout Jew of her era not to realize this. In a very real way what she was doing was demonstrating selfless love for her son. She was offering him the blueprint that would help shape Christ plan for salvation. This is not to say that she is equally responsible for our salvation because she was not the one that hung on the cross at Calvary; however, to ignore her remote cooperation in redemption is to say that Christ himself didn’t need to be raised as all men do. His “yes” to the destiny of salvation follows her “yes” to the Father’s need to be among creation.
This understanding can sometimes cause fear from other Christians who are afraid to give too much credit to anyone but Christ. For the Catholic, however, we must not be afraid to acknowledge this because "the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but sharing in this one source" (Haffner 188). It is important her to remember that we are all part of the mystical body of Christ and as such are co-redeemers with Christ. If I as a Christian help redeem humanity as part of his body two thousand years later, why not his mother that brought him into the world?
Another area in which Mary is the Queen of humanity is in the contemporary world. One does not need to look beyond the evening news to see the world that continually wraps itself in sin. It has often been said that in wrapping Eve into the narrative about Fall of Man is somehow degrading to women. If this is true, then the Christian faith’s upholding of Mary’s obedience to the divine plan should insult it from any misunderstood critique. Mary points to a universal call to Holiness that is inspirational to Modern Man. She said “yes” to God, and because of this, she suffered the horror of watching her son die on the cross; her heart was pierced. This is ultimately the lesson to modern man: Christianity is a paradox in which dying to ourselves allows us to live. God himself demonstrates that this where the Lamb of God that is on the Father’s throne is also the “Lamb that is slain” (Rev 13:8). The theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar points out that, “going even more deeply into this apparent tension in the truths of Mariology, we could say that the more a man is handed over to and plunged into the abyss of, God, the more God can - if he so wills - bring to light his independence” (Balthasar 101).
The people of the contemporary world, especially the young ones, feel this call to serve. They often want to but have no idea how to formulate it. The Blessed Mother’s willingness to dive into the “abyss” of God should be seen as the key to connecting the Church to the now. Rather than a mere object of veneration, she should be regarded as a model of how to act. The Church as a whole, whether male or female, should look at her and say, “this is how it is done”. We should acknowledge that the suffering and scars that are suffered in this service to the Divine will ultimately pay dividends for us. Rather than being defined by what we own or where we are, or even by race and class we become free of all that. It is her example that frees us from the bondage of society to be who we actually are. This is an example of how God acts through his creation and in this case through the woman that was his mother. This is the example that has throughout history created Saints. Rather than seeing the Saints as literary figures who do not engage the modern world Mary the Mother of Humanity serves as an example in the here and now of reality.
Even men who so often see femininity as something to not be accepted in Mary find someone who opened herself up totally to the Creator and found herself. The modern Christian in many ways becomes like the Apostles whom, “he commissions and invests with the necessary powers are chosen thirty years later. They receive masculine tasks of leadership and representation within the comprehensive feminine, Marian Church” (Women Priests 167). This new more Marian feminism instead of calling one gender to replace the other into society calls each of the faithful to follow the example of a woman, and to be brave in the face of whatever God is calling you to be. Pope Pius XII reminds us that much like the people of today she, “ led a life troubled by cares, hardships, and sorrows, and that, moreover, what the holy old man Simeon had foretold actually came to pass, that is, that a terribly sharp sword pierced her heart as she stood under the cross of her divine Son, our Redeemer. In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life" (Pius XII 14). It is also important to have hope in the face of the sometimes violent nature of the world. The great Fulton J. Sheen tells us that while Mary was raising Jesus from boyhood to become a man the world did not seem all that different. Perhaps this amazing orator was aware that people often lose hope, so when talking about the formation of the Lord, he says that “when nature is baptized in the fullness of the powers of spring, there is hardly a rustle. The whole movement takes place secretly and silently, for the new world comes up from the ground like the sound of a trumpet. The greatest oral structures grow day to day without noise” (Sheen 109). Now Fulton J. Sheen was talking about Christ coming into the world during his time, but part of this author wonders if it was true then how much more so now. If the faithful allow the example of the Blessed Mother to nurture their lives and open them up the Creator how might the world be changed silently while no one is looking?
Finally, when looking to Mary Queen of Humanity, it is important to look first to the ministry of Church and from their to our leadership and teaching ministries. The Catechism tells the faithful that, “in the Church this communion of men with God, in the "love [that] never ends," is the purpose which governs everything in her that is a sacramental means, tied to this passing world. "[The Church's] structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ's members. And holiness is measured according to the 'great mystery' in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom." Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church's mystery as "the bride without spot or wrinkle." (Eph 5:27). This is why the "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine" (CCC 773). Within this understanding of the Church, herself is a quote from St. John Paul taken from his letter, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. In this letter, he talks about something of enormous importance to the faithful of the modern era. In it, he says that “In the New Covenant there is only one sacrifice and only one priest: Christ. All the baptized share in the one priesthood of Christ, both men and women, inasmuch as they must "present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), give witness to Christ in every place, and give an explanation to anyone who asks the reason for the hope in eternal life that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15)".51 Universal participation in Christ's sacrifice, in which the Redeemer has offered to the Father the whole world and humanity in particular, brings it about that all in the Church are "a kingdom of priests" (Rev 5:10; cf. 1 Pt 2:9), who not only share in the priestly mission but also in the prophetic and kingly mission of Christ the Messiah. Furthermore, this participation determines the organic unity of the Church, the People of God, with Christ" (MD 27). This means that in this modern era it is as important that the faithful derive their own “Petrine” (leadership) ministries from the same sort of Marian ministry that is expected from the hierarchy of the Church. We must follow the Blessed Mother into the great mystery and not attempt to grab power for the sake of being able to say we have it. Instead, we see any authority that is given to us as a gift that should be exercised in a manner of humility and service to the will of God.
It is for these three reasons and countless others that during these times of animosity and fear that the Blessed Mother reaches out her hand, not so that we can come to her but so that she can lift us up to her son. We need to see her as instrumental in showing us how to walk the path that her son carved out for us. She brought him into this world and suffered as he struggled. She shows us how to abandon ourselves to our Creator. Finally, she shows us that even in areas of authority we should walk humbly in this abandonment not looking for our Glory but that of her son.
Paul, John, II. "Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II, 15 August 1988
- Apostolic Letter." Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II, 15 August 1988 - Apostolic Letter. Vatican, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
Haffner, Paul. The Mystery of Mary. Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing,
Benedict, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Mary, the Church at the Source. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2005. Print.
Sheen, Fulton J. The World's First Love. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2010.