In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus today is the Patronal Festival and Feast of Dedication for our parish home, St. Mary of the Angels, and as an expression of our deep love and veneration for the Patroness of our Church we celebrate the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When now we consider the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary installed with an incorruptible crown, the Notre Dame in regal glory reflecting without obfuscation the eternal life and love of God, we are inclined to focus on the many works of art dedicated to this moment. The earliest surviving depiction of the Coronation is a tympanum over the door of the church at Quenington in Gloucestershire. The theme seems to have spread from England in the twelfth century to the side altars of French Gothic cathedrals in the thirteenth, and at around that time the Crowning of Our Lady in Heaven became all the rage among Italian painters and sculptors responding to a medieval resurgence in Marian devotions in Rome. Pope Sixtus V in 1587 approved the Litany of Loreto, a list of all of the titles conferred upon the Blessed Virgin Mary in Heaven that would be set to music by great composers throughout the centuries including Mozart. The list of the regal titles includes Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Virgins, Queen of the Patriarchs, Queen of the Angels, Queen assumed into Heaven, Queen of all Saints, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of Peace. The Coronation is the fifth of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary; and since it is recited in chronological order after the commemoration of the Assumption, it is assumed that she was crowned Queen of Heaven just after her Assumption into the loving arms of her Son. Perhaps most telling is the last of the titles in the Litany, the Queen of Peace, for peace here is meant to be understood as so much more than simply the cessation of war. It is the cessation of all sin, all strife, all persecution, all suffering. It is the culmination of the hopes of all beleaguered men to live in the fulness of love, wisdom, health, and vitality. To be at peace is to be alive in the Father’s Kingdom, when the old Earth and the old Heaven have passed away to reveal then the fulness of what God has in store for the faithful. To be at peace is to be home, finally, forever, irrevocably, seated in a warm and familiar place after a long pilgrimage out in the cold through sin and strife. Imagine God’s love as the fire on the hearth, His wisdom as your blanket, His life as the bread and the wine set on the table before you. You had wandered all those years a slave to sin, but now and forevermore you are the bearer of an incorruptible crown, adopted totally into the Kingship of Our Lord, and the icon for your new life is your Queen in Heaven. When we are dead in sin, the Queen seems too far removed from our plight, unapproachable, a fantasy born of artistic enthusiasm; but as we start to come alive in grace, and finally when we are at home in Heaven, the Queen is much more approachable, relatable, our Mother in faith, and our guide in eternal life. We shall come to know her as we do or did our biological mother. We shall all know what she says before she says it. She shall all know that, like all mothers, she has eyes for us on the back of her head. For the maternal intimacy of her love for Christ Jesus will be for us too, and we shall love her as we love our biological mothers. “Be it unto me according to thy word,” she said, and as our Mother in faith she will guide us, lovingly, patiently, prayerfully, until finally we are able to say the same words with as much conviction. For the good Mother never gives up on her child, no matter his depravity, and it is her steadfast faithfulness in God and for us that makes her the Queen she is.
The Queen of Heaven is crowned as a reward for her loving fidelity, but she is also crowned so that she may continue in her faithful service to the Lord. God gives us grace to ease our burden, to strengthen and to ennoble us, but He also gives us grace so that we may be better workers in His Kingdom. This is as true for the Queen of Heaven as it is for us. She works continually with a devotion we can only start to contemplate. Her work is to be our example. Her joy is to nurse us so that we may be able to stand on our own feet someday and to follow her Son to the Cross in Jerusalem. Her peace is to pray for us and to urge us to pray for one another. She is the Queen precisely because she continues to be the Lord’s handmaiden. She is the Queen because she is a servant. She is the Queen because she has a special place in her heart for the poor, the weak, the forgotten, the discarded, and the aborted.
In Psalm 139:13, we pray: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” The Bible is clear as to the absolute sanctity of the life of the unborn, but in this passage we learn as much about ourselves as about the children still in the womb. To be knitted is not simply to be attached. It is to be interwoven; designed and crafted by a gentle hand in and for that other person to whom we are knitted. We see the tender care that God exhibits for every life; but we also see our connectedness to our Mother, and her devotion to each and every one of us, especially when we are most vulnerable and in need of a maternal hand. Therefore, when we behold the Queen of Heaven in all her glory, she wants us to see how we are meant for the same glory. She wants us to see where we may go, for as it is true that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first, so may we depraved sinners hope for the peace that passeth all understanding. There is an incorruptible crown for us, if only we shall wear it. There is a heavenly home for us, if only we shall abide in it. There is a light for us, if only we shall step out from the darkness. There is a love for us, if only we shall allow ourselves to be loved and to love in return. And, finally, there is life for us, if only we shall put aside the culture of sin and death that Adam has passed onto us, and embrace our Heavenly Mother’s Son. This is easier said than done, for it is hard in a broken world to see what is not broken. It is hard in a blinded world to see, and it is hard in a deafened world to hear. Our Heavenly Mother realizes this. Her gifted purity, her everlasting virginity, her blessedness does not set her apart from us, but rather makes her that much more capable of seeing who we really are and hearing what we really say. Her blessedness means that she is not obscured by any wickedness of her own from helping us as we most need to be helped in going to her Son. As she said to the servants before Christ Jesus turned the water to wine at the Wedding at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” She says the same to us; and because of her blessedness, her freedom from sin and wretchedness, she is able to say that in words that will most resonate with us. She is able to intercede for us in a way that is most intimate to our condition. Pray, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, that we may receive the grace with which to know Christ Jesus as our Heavenly Mother knows Him. Pray that we may love Him as she loves Him. Pray that we may love one another as she loves all of us. Her Coronation is an invitation for us to pursue the incorruptible crown God has in store for His faithful. Pray that we may be worthy of that crown and live today as if we wear it now.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.