The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,A Reading from the Book of Revelation (11:19-12:17)
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. 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 twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.The Word of the Lord.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!"
So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.
Thanks be to God.
As I mentioned in my last meditation, the one book of the Bible that was likely written after Mary's assumption into heaven does, in fact, seem to refer to it--that is, the book of Revelation. In chapter 12, John describes a glorious Lady crowned and arrayed with celestial bodies, who gives birth to a Son who will rule all the nations. Before going on to meditate on Mary's Queenship based from this passage, I wanted to pause for a moment in order to establish that this Lady is, indeed, Our Lady, for it seems that there is some small controversy on that point.
As I said, the passage describes the Lady as giving birth to a Son. Establishing His identity will be a solid indication as to her identity. John describes the Son in these terms: "The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre." This latter part of the verse, about ruling the nations with a rod of iron, is a direct allusion to Psalm 2:8-9:
'Ask of Me, and I shall give You the nations as Your birthright,This psalm is understood as to be referring to the Messiah's reign, and so the Son to which the Lady gives birth is Jesus Himself. In this celestial drama, there is also an adversary, a great red dragon who desires to destroy the Child, but is unable to. John identifies him explicitly as Satan, who is then thrust down by Michael the Archangel. Now, we thus have Christ, Satan, and Michael--three specific people. And then we have the Woman. Logically, to me, the Woman who gives birth to the Messiah is Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. And yet, many interpreters of this passage disagree, some claiming instead that the Woman represents the Jewish people, while others claim that she represents the Church. Now, while I agree that to a limited extent the Woman can be seen as representing one or even both of these groups, I do not think that Israel or the Church can be taken as the primary interpretation. In a text where all the other characters specifically refer to specific people, why do we then want to interpret the primary figure as not a specific person but as a symbolic representation? But I have belaboured this point long enough. Let us proceed then recognising that the Woman is Our Lady. What then does this passage teach us about her?
the whole wide world as Your possession.
With an iron sceptre You will break them,
shatter them like so many pots.'
We see first that God's sanctuary in heaven is opened at the blowing of the trumpet, and amidst peals of thunder, violent earthquakes, and hail, the long-lost Ark of the Covenant is seen there in heaven. And as St. John focuses on that holiest of artifacts, lost for centuries, he realises that it is not the gold-plated wooden reliquary, but rather, it is a Woman, magnificently clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, and crowned with twelve stars. This Woman is the Ark of the New Covenant, and here St. John gives us the most definitive statement of that fact, which has itself been the recurring theme of these meditations.
Mary, our New Ark of the Covenant, is also our Holy Queen, as we see from John's description. She is arrayed in splendour and crowned with stars! St. John describes her as labouring to give birth to the Messiah, and here is a mystery. How is Mary, gloriously present in Heaven, depicted as giving birth to Jesus--something that clearly happened on earth? We must remember the symbolic nature of Revelation. Unlike his Gospel, John's Revelation is not a chronological account, but a peek behind the veil into spiritual realities. In fact, if anything, time seems to flow backwards in John's reckoning. He begins with a vision of a glorified Jesus (ch 1), then sees Him as the Lamb who was slain, present before the Altar of Heaven (ch 5). Later, he sees Jesus as the Child (ch 12), but then a chapter later describes Him as the Lamb slain from before time began (13:8)! Finally, John bookends his vision with Christ as a glorified King as in chapter 1 (ch 19 ff). Thus, Mary's appearance with Jesus as a child in heaven is not taken as a literal chronology. Rather, while it refers to the literal event of Christmas, it reveals to us that just as Jesus is eternally presenting His sacrifice to the Father on Heaven's Altar (Rev 5:6), so Mary is perpetually, spiritually, causing Jesus to be born in us.
This is what Satan cannot abide, and so he stands ready to devour the Child as soon as He is born, just as in Jesus' parable of the sower, the birds snatch the grain of God's Word up from the worn path of a hardened heart. But Satan has no power over the child, who is caught up to God and to His throne. He has no power over Mary, either, for she has been conceived without the stain of sin, and is able to flee the dragon. And so Michael, heaven's champion, wars with the dragon and thrusts him down to earth.
St. John makes sure that, in this scene, we recognise the parallel to the Fall of Man in Genesis 3--and particularly to the promise of redemption in verse 15. Where Satan was able to bring about Adam and Eve's fall into sin, Jesus and Mary recapitulate the Fall. God had promised, "I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will bruise your head and you will strike his heel" (Gen 3:15). It is here, I find, that we see the reason why John repeatedly refers to Mary as "Woman", both in Revelation and throughout his Gospel (cf John 2:4; 19:26). He makes it clear that she is the Woman with whom the Serpent has been put in enmity. She is the New Eve, whose Child will crush Satan's head, while Satan will bruise His heel--which was ultimately fulfilled in the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Unable to triumph over Our Lord and Lady, Satan sets his sights on Mary's other offspring, lest they too should crush his head with Jesus. So, knowing that his time is short, he turns to ravage those "who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus" (Rev 12:17). Here again is a mystery--and a great and wonderful hope! We, who follow God and testify to Jesus--who are adopted sons and daughters of the Father and the younger brothers and sisters of Christ--have been given His Mother as our Mother as well, just as He gave Mary to St. John at the foot of the Cross. Thus, despite Satan's best efforts and most violent ragings, if we stay close to our Mother, she will continue to birth Christ in us, and while Satan may strike at our heels, Jesus living in us will ultimately and finally crush the head of the serpent!
Mother Mary, our Heavenly Queen, we ask for your protection. Cover us under your mantle, and continue to form in us the image of your Son. Amen.
(Category: Catholic Devotions: The Rosary.)