Mary, Queen of…..the Nile?
Rev. Steve Schlissel - May 29, 2008
Yesterday my Roman Catholic friends celebrated the supposed Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven. Having just heard the entire service, I’m made once again to wonder just why it is that Romanists deny that they pray to Mary, why they deny that they hold Mary to be the functional equivalent of a Fourth member of the Godhead. We might well ask, if the world rumor about Rome being ready to officially rank Mary as a member of the Quadrinityâ€”if they were to do that, what changes would be necessary to Romish faith and practice? I answer that question: none.
However, the denial continues as does the worship and adoration rendered to that blessed (but abused by her friends) woman. In what seemed a perfunctory effort to bring some earthly balance to the way Mary is thought of by the faithful, the priest, a man dear to me, quoted assorted Scripture texts which he apparently hoped might support various Marian dogmas. They didn’t.
His emphasis, however, encouraged more diligent imitation of Mary’s virtues, a safer application than a call to yet more exalted devotion. In all the priest’s Bible-summoning, however, the Scriptures he didn’t cite left bigger holes unfilled than Munchkins do.
The priest said that Mary’s assumption to heaven is known to be fact by the symbolic teaching of the Book of Revelation, particularly in its 12th chapter where “the woman” is spoken of. He said we must remember that the symbolism in that chapter applies both to Mary and to the entire church, for both are “clothed with the sun.” But while we read of a loud voice from heaven declaring, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ”, we find no mention of any woman let alone “the” woman, being assumed up to heaven, and not a word that could be construed as reporting a coronation. Revelation 12 is where they find Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth? How anyone could conclude that such occurred in this chapter is indeed a mystery. The woman flees into the desert under God’s watchful care for 3.5 years. She is given eagle’s wings to help her escape from the dragon, but she flies out to the wilderness, not up to heaven. She is the object of special divine care, rescued from drowning when the torrent spewed by the dragon threatened to engulf her. At that time the earth “opened its mouth” and swallowed the pursuing river. The earth again, not the heavens. There simply is no mention or allusion to herâ€”or anyone elseâ€”being lifted to heaven. If anything may be safely concluded it is that the woman, whoever she is, remained altogether on earth, because the dragonâ€”who had explicitly been cast down to earthâ€”went off to make war against her, even “the rest of her offspring” who obey God’s commandsâ€”obey on earth.
The priest spoke of Jesus as “Mary’s only begotten Son.” I had never heard that before and was rather startled by it. Could it be that their interest in perpetuating her maidenhood into eternity may have been bolstered by a desire to attribute to her a relational descriptive everywhere else reserved for God the Father, thus making her seem ever more divine? I don’t know. But I do know that we heard nothing of Mary’s assumption in any passage cited. We heard, rather, Romanists’ presumptions, and wept. The pretense of offering Scriptural support was dropped finally when it was admitted that the May crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven is a tradition of long standing in the church and therefore ought to be continued. As if every sin attaining to the boast of great age ought for that reason be perpetuated.
Other Scripture was “dragged in,” such as the prophecy of the sword piercing her soul, which, we were correctly assured, was fulfilled as she witnessed the crucifixion. But an earthly piercing is not a heavenly crowning. At homily’s end, the proposition about Mary’s crowning remained as unsupported as when the homily had begun.
But the end didn’t come before we were exhorted to see Mary as a model worthy of imitation in her virtues, special mention being made of her devotion to prayer. While we see no harm in encouraging imitation of anyone’s virtues we do not see how the specific instance citedâ€”Mary’s being among the 120 who were filled with the Spirit at the Jerusalem Pentecostâ€”sets her apart from the pack in any way. There is absolutely nothing attributed to Mary in that passage that did not pertain equally or more to the other 119.
There was, on the other hand, a great deal attributed to the Apostles, and especially Peter, that is not predicated of Mary. Of this nothing was said. We do not count silence as a case-clincher, but we do wonder at Luke’s omission, his failure to report anything about her after the crucifixion which would be remotely suggestive of eminence, let alone preeminence. If anything, we are made to believe that her unspeakably honorable role in God’s unfolding plan had pretty much been played, and she was on her way, escorted rather swiftly by Luke’s narrative, to the relative obscurity she doubtless coveted. We ought to be careful not to stain Mary with the ugly lust for ostentation which her self-appointed devotees attribute her. If any crown were offered to Mary in heaven, doubtless she would have refused it and cast it at her Savior’s feet.
No Mary-loving service would be complete, of course, without reference to her alleged intercessory superpowers as revealed in the incident at the wedding in Cana (John 2) wherein Mary made Jesus aware of the shortage of vino at the marriage celebration. “They have no more wine.” (There is something almost comically disproportionate about this simple sentence resulting in trillions of “Hail Mary, pray for us sinners” utterances. The priest mentioned her instruction to the servants present, “Do whatever He tells you,” deliberately, it seemed, trying to convey the impression that she was Jesus’ manager and/or agent. But curiously absent from the priest’s citations were the words our Lord used in response to her initial observation: “Woman, why do you involve Me? My time has not yet come.” That this was a rebuke of sorts cannot be disputed. It reveals Mary (again) to be precisely that sort of run-of-the-mill, bumbling, endearing disciple that we find Peter and the other apostles to have been throughout the pre-Pentecost narratives. These are just NORMAL people. There is no Queen of Heaven here, no Manager of Intercessions, no “Bring your worries to me” woman. We see instead a woman trying to figure out just who Jesus is and wondering intensely when He was going to make it known.
Interestinglyâ€”not surprisinglyâ€”absent from the priest’s list of passages were texts like this from Mark 3: In this scene, a crowd gathered deep around Jesus had assumed that a special privilege would belong to Jesus’ mother, in tow with Jesus’ siblings from Mary, all waiting outside to see Him. If any favor is ever accorded to anyone by a dignitary, it is AT LEAST helping them avoid those long lines where commoners must wait and wait for audience with the celebrity. If there is a Level One Favor for favored souls, it would certainly be a back-stage pass. But Mary couldn’t/didn’t merit even that! No moving her to the head of the line. From whence does the notion of His eagerness to crown her Queen of Heaven arise? Not from any divine text in our possession! When told that Jesus’ blood family was waiting outside to see Him, our Lord said, “Make way for the Queen of Heaven!” Oh. Sorry. No. He didn’t say that. He said, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
That would mean, minimally, that there is lots of competition for the Queen’s crown. But more plainly, it means that the “tradition” invented and perpetuated by Rome is not merely one added to Scripture (which is the breathings of God). It is a tradition added AGAINST Scripture, and therefore ought to be tossed out, not continued.
The last element of the service was the singing of a Latin hymn to their reigning monarch: “Save us, Mary,” they chanted over and again. “Save us.” Amen, but not to Mary. Rather, “Lord Jesus, save them from laying any more bricks in their well-intentioned road to perdition. Grant them eyes able to distinguish between a mother chosen by You to guarantee His humanity, and a goddess manufactured by themselves to partake of your divinity. Grant them a desire to see You honored, above all. Amen.”