The Memorial of the Queenship of Mary

The Memorial of the Queenship of Mary: August 22nd

“Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy….” So begins one of the prayers from our Catholic treasury. Have you ever wondered why we use the title “Queen” for Mary? 

The beginning of the concept that Mary is a Queen is found in the annunciation narrative. For the angel tells her that her Son will be King over the house of Jacob forever. So she, His Mother, would be a Queen. While in our age we are quick to think that “queen” means wife of the king, the meaning in ancient Israel also included the mother of the king, the “Queen Mother.” The first formal definition and basis for the later title “Mary Queen of Heaven” developed at the Council of Ephesus, where Mary was proclaimed as “theotokos” (lit. “God bearer”) or in English, the Mother of God. The Council fathers specifically approved this version against the opinion, that Mary is “only” the mother of Jesus. Nobody had participated in the life of her son more, than Mary, who gave birth to the Son of God. 

But they were formalizing a belief already present in the Church. A text probably coming from Origen (died c. 254) gives her the title domina, the feminine form of Latin dominus, Lord. That same title also appears in many other early writers, e.g., St. Ephrem, St. Jerome, St. Peter Chrysologus. The word “Queen” appears about the sixth century, and is common thereafter. We see the evidence of it usage in the four ancient Marian antiphons of the Liturgy of the Hours that express the Queenship of the Virgin Mary: Salve ReginaAve Regina CaelorumAlma Redemptoris Mater, and Regina Caeli

Since the 13th century, the Franciscan communities celebrated the Queenship of Mary when praying the “Franciscan Crown” rosary. It is the 7th mystery of the Joy of Mary: The Assumption and Coronation of Mary.

In our time, we celebrate the Queenship of Mary eight days after the Solemnity of the Assumption. In establishing the feast, Pope Pius XII, reiterated the ancient thinking and reasons for her title of Queen in his Radiomessage to Fatima, Bendito seja: “He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty and the dominion of His kingship, for, having been associated to the King of Martyrs in the unspeakable work of human Redemption as Mother and cooperator, she remains forever associated to Him, with a practically unlimited power, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, and by singular choice [of the Father].”