Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A Treatise of St.Alphonsus Liguori on the
“Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae”
(Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy)
As the glorious Virgin Mary has been raised to the dignity of the Mother of the King of kings, it is not without reason that the Church honors Her, and wishes Her to be honored by all, with the glorious title of Queen. ‘If the Son is King the Mother who begot Him is rightly and truly considered a Queen and a Sovereign.’ St. Bernardine of Sienna: ‘No sooner had Mary consented to be Mother of the Eternal Word, than she merited by this consent to be made Queen of the world and of all creatures.’ The Abbot Arnold of Chartres: ‘Since the flesh of Mary was not different from that of Jesus, how can the royal dignity of the Son be denied to the Mother? Hence we must consider the glory of the Son, not only as being common to, but as one with, that of His Mother.’ And if Jesus is the King of the universe, Mary is also its Queen. ‘And as Queen,’ says the Abbot Rupert, ‘she possesses, by right, the whole kingdom of Her Son.’
Mary, then, is a Queen: but, for our common consolation, be it known that She is a Queen so sweet, clement, and so ready to help us in our miseries, that the Holy Church wills that we should salute Her in this prayer under the title “Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae”. ‘The title of Queen,’ says St. Albert the Great, ‘differs from that of Empress, which implies severity and rigor, in signifying compassion and charity towards the poor.’ ‘The greatness of kings and queens,’ says Seneca, ‘consists in relieving the wretched;’ and whereas tyrants, when they reign, have their own good in view, kings should have that of their subjects at heart. For this reason it is that, at their consecration, kings have their heads anointed with oil, which is the symbol of mercy, to denote that as kings they should, above all things, nourish in their hearts feelings of compassion and benevolence towards their subjects.
Kings should then occupy themselves principally in works of mercy, but not so as to forget the just punishments that are to be inflicted on the guilty. It is, however, no so with Mary, who, although a Queen, is not a queen of justice, intent on the punishment of the wicked, but a Queen of mercy, intent only on commiserating and pardoning sinners. And this is the reason for which the Church requires that we should expressly call Her ‘the Queen of Mercy.’
These two things have I heard, that power belongeth to God, and mercy to Thee, O Lord (Ps. 61.12-13, the Sacred Latin Vulgate Bible and DRV). That is, the kingdom of God, consisting inn justice and mercy, was divided by Our Lord: the Kingdom of justice He reserved for Himself, and that of Mercy He yielded to Mary, ordaining at the same time that all mercies that are dispensed to men should pass by the hands of Mary, and be disposed of by Her at will. This is confirmed by the angelic Doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Preface to the Canonical Epistles: ‘that when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in Her womb, and brought Him forth, She obtained half the Kingdom of God; so that She is Queen of Mercy, as Jesus Christ is the King of Justice.’
The Powerful Intercession of Mary as Queen Typified by Queen Esther of the Old Testament
We read in the 4th chapter of the Book of Esther, that in the reign of Assuerus, a decree was issued, by which all the Jews were condemned to death. Mardochai, who was one of the condemned, addressed himself to Queen Esther, in order that she might interpose with King Assuerus, and obtain the revocation of the decree, and thus be the salvation of all. At first, Esther declined the office, fearing that such a request might irritate the King still more; but Mardochai reproved her, sending her word that she was not to think only of saving herself, for God had placed her on the throne to obtain the salvation of all the Jews: think not that thou mayst save thy life only, because thou art in the King’s house, more than all the Jews (4.13). And so can we poor sinners address our Queen Mary, should She show any repugnance to obtain of God our delivery from the chastisement we have justly deserved: ‘Think not, O Lady, that God has raised Thee to the dignity of Queen of the world, only to provide for thy good; but in order that, being so great, thou mightest be better able to compassionate and assist us miserable creatures.’
As soon as Assuerus saw Esther standing before him, he asked her, with love, what she came to seek. What is thy petition… that it may be granted thee? And what wilt thou have done: although thou ask the half of my kingdom, thou shalt have it (7.2). The queen replied, If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, give me my people, for which I request? (v.3) Assuerus granted her petition and immediately ordered the revocation of the decree and the death of the enemy-conspirator, Aman. And now, if Assuerus, through love for her, granted, at her request salvation to the Jews, how can God refuse the prayers of Mary, loving Her immensely as He does, when She prays for poor miserable sinners who recommend to Her, and She says to Him: ‘My King and my God, if ever I have found favor in Thy sight’ [though the Divine Mother well knows that She was the blessed (Blessed art thou among women, Lk. 1.28; all generations shall call me blessed, v.48: “These words are a prediction of that honor which the Catholic Church in all ages should pay to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let the ‘Bible-only’ sectarians examine whether they are any way concerned in this prophecy,” Bp. Richard Challoner in his revised edition of the Catholic Douay-Rheims Version), the holy one (Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee, Canticle of Canticles – ‘Song of Songs’ in Protestant and Neo-Catholic versions – 4.7), the only one of the human race who found the grace lost by all mankind (Hail, full of grace, “kecharitomene” in Greek, Lk. 1.28: only St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible and its English translation, the Douay-Rheims Version, render this passage correctly; the Neo-Catholic versions, such as the NAB, JB, NRSV-CE render it even worse than the traditional Protestant versions), well does know that She is the beloved One of Her Lord, loved more than all the saints and angels together], ‘give me my people for which I ask.’ If Thou lovest me, She says, ‘give me, O Lord, these sinners, for whom I entreat Thee.’ Is it possible that God should refuse Her? It is written: the law of clemency is on her tongue (Prov. 31.26). Each of Her prayers is, as it were, an established law for whom She intercedes. St. Bernard asks why the Church calls Mary “the Queen of Mercy” and he replies: “It is because we believe that She opens the abyss of the mercy of God to whomsoever She wills, when She wills, and as She wills; so that there is no sinner, however great, who is lost if Mary protects him.”
But perhaps we may fear that Mary would not deign to interpose for some sinners, on account of their being so overloaded with crimes? Or perhaps we ought to be overawed at the majesty and holiness of this great Queen? Pope St. Gregory VII: “No, for the higher and more holy She is, the greater is Her sweetness and compassion towards sinners, who have recourse to Her with the desire to amend their lives.” Kings and queens, with their ostentation of majesty, inspire terror, and cause their subjects to fear to approach them: but what fear, says St. Bernard, can the miserable have to approach this Queen of Mercy, for She inspires no terror, and shows no severity, to those who come to Her, but is all sweet and gentleness, “offering milk and wool to all,” that is, the milk of mercy to animate our confidence, and the wool [take note why Her Brown Scapular must be woolen] of Her protection against the thunderbolt of Divine Justice.
How great then should be our confidence in this Queen, knowing Her great power with God, and that She is so rich and full of mercy, that there is no one living on earth who does not partake of Her compassion and favor. This was revealed by Our Blessed Mother Herself to St. Bridget: “I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just and the door through which sinners are brought to God. There is no sinner on earth so accursed as to be deprived of my mercy; for all, if they receive nothing else through my intercession, receive the grace of being less tempted by the devils, than they would otherwise have been. No one, unless the irrevocable sentence has been pronounced (that is, the one pronounced on the damned), is so cast off by God, that he will not return to Him, and enjoy His mercy, if he invokes my aid. I am called by all the Mother of Mercy, and truly the mercy of my Son towards men has made me thus merciful towards them… and therefore, miserable will he be, and miserable will he be to all eternity, who, in this life, having it in his power to invoke me, who am so compassionate to all, and so desirous to assist sinners, is miserable enough not to invoke me, and so is damned.”
Let us then fly, and fly always, to the feet of this most sweet Queen, if we would be certain of salvation; and if we are alarmed and disheartened at the sight of our sins, let us remember that it is in order to save the greatest and most abandoned sinners, who recommend themselves to Her and desire to amend their lives, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy. Such souls have to be Her crown in heaven; according to the words addressed to Her by Her Divine Spouse: Come from Libanus, My spouse; come from Libanus, come: thou shalt be crowned… from the dens of the lions, from the mountains of the leopards (Cant. 4.8). And what are these dens of beasts, but miserable sinners, whose souls have become the home of sin, the most frightful monster that can be found. ‘With such souls,’ says the Abbot Rupert, addressing Our Lady, ‘saved by thy means, O great Queen Mary, wilt Thou be crowned in heaven; for their salvation will form a diadem worthy of, and well becoming, a Queen of Mercy.’
“O, Mother of my God, and my Lady Mary: as a beggar, all wounded and sore, presents himself before a great Queen, so do I present myself before Thee, who art the Queen of heaven and earth. From the lofty throne on which thou sittest,disdain not, I implore Thee to cast Thine eyes on me, a poor sinner. God has made Thee so rich that Thou mightest relieve the miserable. Behold me, then, and pity me: behold me, and abandon me me not, until thou seest me changed from a sinner into a saint. Therefore do I address Thee in the words of St. Bonaventure: “Do Thou govern me, O my Queen, and leave me not to myself.” Command me; employ me as thou wilt; and chastise me when I do not obey, for the chastisements that come from Thy hands will to me be pledges of salvation. Tuus sum ego salvum me fac (“I am thine; save me,” Ps 118.94). Accept me, O Mary, for Thine own, and as Thine, take charge of my salvation. I will no longer be mine; to Thee do I give myself. If, during the time past I have served Thee ill, and lost so many occassions of honoring Thee, for the future I will be one of Thy most loving and faithful child and servant. I am determined that from this day forward no one shall surpass me in honoring and loving Thee, my most amiable Queen. This I promise; and this, with Thy help, I hope to execute. Amen.”
A blessed Feast to all!