The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven
Regina Caeli, or “Queen of Heaven” is a title given to the Virgin Mary by the Catholic Church along with, but to a lesser extent, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The title stems from Mary’s role as the mother of Jesus Christ the King. Like most Marian doctrines, it has less to do with who Mary is and more to do with who her son is.
Most ancient Near-Eastern kings, including the Davidic kings, practiced polygamy. Because of this, the king’s mother ruled as queen rather than one of his many wives. For example, compare the humble attitude of Bathsheba as spouse of King David (1 Kgs. 1:16–17, 31) with her majestic dignity as mother of the next king, Solomon (1 Kgs. 2:19–20). As spouse of the king, Bathsheba bows with her face to the ground and does obeisance to her husband, David, upon entering his royal chamber. In contrast, after her son Solomon assumed the throne and she became queen mother, Bathsheba receives a glorious reception upon meeting with her royal son: In the Old Testament, the Mother of the King was called the gebirah, meaning “Great Lady” or “Queen Mother” and held great power as advocate with the king. 1 Kings 2:19-20 describes Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, as being seated on a throne at his right, which has great significance because being ‘seated at the the right hand’ was a place of ultimate honor. Along with a throne, Jeremiah describes the Queen Mother as also possessing a crown (Jer. 13:18, 20). Throughout 1 & 2 Kings, whenever Judean kings are listed, it’s always with their mothers. (1 Kings 15:1-2, 2 Kings 8:25-26, 12:1, 14:1-2, 15:1-2, 18:1-2, 22:1). 1 Kings 2:17-20 also shows how the queen mother served as an advocate for the people, carrying petitions to the king: “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, ‘I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.’ And the king said to her, ‘Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you’” (1 Kgs. 2:19–20).
Mary’s queenship, then, is simply a share in her son Jesus’ kingship. In Luke 1:32, when the archangel Gabriel announces that Christ “…will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end,” the biblical precedent in ancient Israel would be that the mother of the king becomes the queen mother. When Isa. 7:13–14 says “Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emmanuel” it is in reference to both the next king (Hezekiah) and Jesus (Matt. 1:23). The young woman in the passage would have been understood by the Jews to be the next Queen Mother. Just as the Queen Mothers were always listed along with the Davidic Kings, Mary is included at the end of Christ’s genealogy (Matt 1:16) and Matthew frequently uses the phrase “the child and his mother” (Matt 1:18, 2:11, 13, 14, 20, 21). In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth greets Mary with the title “the mother of my Lord.” Mary also seen as acting as an advocate to the King in John 2:2-5: “Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Finally, Mary’s queenship in heaven is revealed in Revelation 12: “And 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 with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery” (Rev. 12:1–2). Although this also represents the Church, the fact that the child is clearly Christ points to the woman also being Mary, crowned.
Side note: The prophet Jeremiah writing circa 628 BC refers to a “queen of heaven” in chapters 7 and 44 of the Book of Jeremiah when he scolds the people for having “sinned against the Lord” due to their idolatrous practices of burning incense, making cakes, and pouring out drink offerings to her. This title was probably given to Asherah, a Canaanite idol and goddess worshipped in ancient Israel or possibly the Mesopotamian goddess Astarte. It is clear, however, that this text is unrelated to Mary as the Queen of Heaven as these pagan goddesses did not exist in reality. Mary, on the other hand, was a real historical person who is queen by virtue of the fact that her son is king. Just as the Greek belief in Apollo or the Egyptian belief in Horus does not discount Christ as the Son of God, neither does the belief in these pagan goddesses discount Mary as the authentic Queen of Heaven.
Historical Evidence of
Early Christian Beliefs:
Jer. 13:18, 20
“Say to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head. . . . Lift up your eyes and see those who come from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful flock?’”
Church Father Quotes:
Ephraim the Syrian
“Girl, empress and ruler, queen, lady, protect and keep me in your arms, lest Satan, who causes evil, exult over me” –Oratrio ad SS. Dei Matrem, Opera Omnia, ed. Assemani, t. III (Rome, 1747), 546.)
“Queen of all after the Trinity, Consoler after the Paraclete, Mediatrix of the whole world after the Mediator.” –J. Carol, 1:232.
Martin Luther, Father of the Protestant Reformation
“She, the Lady above heaven and earth, must…have a heart so humble that she might have no shame in washing the swaddling clothes or preparing a bath for St. John the Baptist, like a servant girl. What humility! It would surely have been more just to have arranged for her a golden coach, pulled by 4,000 horses, and to cry and proclaim as the carriage proceeded: ‘Here passes the woman who is raised far above all women, indeed above the whole human race.’” –Luther’s Works, 21:327. A sermon Luther preached on July 2, 1532, the Feast of the Visitation
“She was not filled with pride by this praise…this immense praise: ‘No woman is like unto thee! Thou art more than an empress or a queen…blessed above all nobility, wisdom, or saintliness!’” –Lutheran Works 36:208, 45:107.