Queen of Heaven?
Pope Pius XII effectively summarized the core reasons Christians ought to honor Mary with the title of Queen of Heaven and Earth:
According to ancient tradition and the sacred liturgy the main principle on which the royal dignity of Mary rests is without doubt her divine motherhood. In holy writ, concerning the son whom Mary will conceive, we read this sentence: “He shall be called the son of the most high, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,” and in addition Mary is called “Mother of the Lord,” from this it is easily concluded that she is a queen, since she bore a son who, at the very moment of his conception, because of the hypostatic union of the human nature with the Word, was also as man, king and lord of all things. So with complete justice St. John Damascene could write: “When she became mother of the creator, she truly became queen of every creature.” Likewise, it can be said that the heavenly voice of the Archangel Gabriel was the first to proclaim Mary’s royal office (Ad Caeli Reginam, 34).
In my next blog post, I will give more positive reasons for faith in Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth, but many Protestants I speak to cannot get past one biblical text from the Old Testament that casts a shadow over this topic like none other. In Roman Catholics and Evangelicals—Agreements and Differences, Norman Geisler and Ralph MacKenzie present that text along with their commentary that represents the misguided faith of millions. And that text is Jeremiah 7:18:
Do you not see what they are doing in the streets of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.
Geisler and MacKenzie comment:
To call Mary “Queen of Heaven,” knowing that this very phrase comes from an old pagan idolatrous cult condemned in the Bible (cf. Jer. 7:18), only invites the charge of Mariolatry. And Mariolatry is idolatry (p. 322).
I can certainly sympathize with their thinking here. I once thought the same. But the truth is: this text has absolutely nothing to do with the Blessed Mother as Queen of Heaven for at least three reasons:
- Jeremiah here condemns the adoration of the Mesopotamian goddess Astarte (see Raymond Brown, S.S., Joseph Fitzmeyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, editors, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1968, p. 310). She is in no way related to Mary. In fact, “she” did not and does not exist in reality. Mary, on the other hand, was a real historical person who was—and is—a queen by virtue of the fact that her son was—and is—the king.
- Jeremiah condemned offering sacrifice to “the queen of heaven.” In Scripture, we have many examples of the proper way we should honor great members of the kingdom of God. We give “double honor” to “elders who rule well” in the Church (1 Tim. 5:17). St. Paul tells us we should “esteem very highly” those who are “over [us] in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12-13). We sing praises to great members of the family of God who have gone before us (Psalm 45:17). We bow down to them with reverence (1 Kings 2:19). We carry out the work of the Lord in their names (Matt. 10:40-42, DRV), and more. But there is one thing we ought never to do: offer sacrifice to them. Offering sacrifice is tantamount to the adoration that is due God alone. And this is precisely what Jeremiah was condemning. The Catholic Church does not teach—and has never taught—that we should adore Mary (see CCC 2110-2114; Lumen Gentium 66-67; CCC 971). Catholics offer sacrifice exclusively to God.
- To the Evangelical and Fundamentalist, the mere fact that worshipping someone called “queen of heaven” is condemned in Jeremiah 7 eliminates the possibility of Mary being the true Queen of Heaven and Earth. This simply does not follow. The existence of a counterfeit queen does not mean there can’t be an authentic one. This reasoning followed to its logical end would lead to abandoning the entire Christian Faith! We could not have a Bible because Hinduism, Islam, and many other false religions have “holy books.” We could not call Jesus Son of God because Zeus and Hera had Apollo, Isis and Osiris had Horus, etc. The fact that there was a false “queen of heaven” worshipped in ancient Mesopotamia does not negate the reality of the true queen who is honored as such in the kingdom of God.
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