Hail Queen of Heaven!
Some weeks ago I had the joy of assisting at a magnificent Eucharistic adoration organised by the Komunità Ġesù Salvatur.
The way it was organized and the healing spirit that reigned in this adoration were really unforgettable! This adoration made me appreciate more what the Venerable Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Mediator Dei, on how Eucharistic adoration is a catalyst for doctrinal progress and provides a deeper understanding of Christ’s presence in the Blessed Eucharist outside the Mass. He said that various modes of Eucharistic adoration “have brought a wonderful increase in faith and supernatural life to the Church militant upon earth” (MD, 133).
My increase in faith and supernatural life, thanks to this Eucharistic adoration, has also been due to a fascinating Marian hymn which the charismatic priest who animated the adoration played wonderfully towards the end. This Marian hymn, which is also featured in the 2005 epic historical drama film set in the 12th century Crusades background, (which was directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan), Kingdom of Heaven, is called Ave Regina Caelorum, or Hail Queen of Heaven. Its words are really moving and inspiring!
“Hail, O Queen of Heav’n enthron’d, Hail, by angels Mistress own’d, Root of Jesse, Gate of morn, Whence the world’s true light was born. Glorious Virgin, joy to thee, Loveliest whom in Heaven they see, Fairest thou where all are fair! Plead with Christ our sins to spare. V. Allow me to praise thee, holy Virgin. R. Give me strength against thy enemies.
“Let us pray: Grant, O merciful God, to our weak natures Thy protection, that we who commemorate the holy Mother of God may, by the help of her intercession, arise from our iniquities. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.”
What are the biblical and theological undertones of this profound Marian title? With this title Queen of Heaven, Mary certainly surpasses the gebirah or the “Great Lady”, the Mother of the King, who, under certain Davidic kings, had great power as advocates with the kings. Take, for instance, the case in 1 Kings 2:20, where King Solomon said to his mother Bathsheba, who was seated on a throne on his right: “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20).
The Church has always considered the woman clothed with the sun in the Book of Revelation 12 as referring to Mary. “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Rev 12:1-2).
As Pope Pius XII rightly explained in his encyclical on proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, Ad Caeli Reginam (Nos 17-21), there is ample patristic evidence which illustrates this powerful Marian title within the Church’s rich tradition. St Andrew of Crete writes: “Today He transports from her earthly dwelling, as Queen of the human race, His ever-Virgin Mother, from whose womb He, the living God, took on human form.” For Andrew of Crete Mary is “the Queen of the entire human race faithful to the exact meaning of her name, who is exalted above all things save only God himself”. St Germanus addresses the humble Mary with these eloquent words: “Be enthroned, Lady, for it is fitting that you should sit in an exalted place since you are a Queen and glorious above all kings... Queen of all of those who dwell on earth”. St John Damascene calls Mary “Queen, ruler, and lady” and “the Queen of every creature”. Another ancient writer of the Eastern Church refers to Mary as “favoured Queen”, “the perpetual Queen beside the King, her son”, whose “snow-white brow is crowned with a golden diadem”. Lastly, St Ildephonsus of Toledo salutes Mary in the following majestic way: “O my Lady, my Sovereign, You who rule over me, Mother of my Lord... Lady among handmaids, Queen among sisters”.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap Marsa