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Mary the Queen of Heaven

Before God became man, an impor­tant sign of God’s pres­ence was the Ark of the Covenant.

In the wilder­ness, Moses placed it in the Holy of Holies. The Israelites crossed the Jor­dan Riv­er with it, and they marched around Jeri­cho with it. King David danced before it. And after King Solomon built the tem­ple in Jerusalem, the Ark was again placed in the Holy of Holies. The lid of the Ark was dec­o­rat­ed with gold­en stat­ues of angels, and a num­ber of peo­ple were per­mit­ted to see the uncre­at­ed light of God, as the Shek­inah glo­ry lit­er­al­ly shone between the wings of the cheru­bim.

Mary the New Ark of the Covenant

In the Book of Rev­e­la­tion, the Ark of the Covenant is described in con­nec­tion with a high­ly exalt­ed woman who gave birth to a great King:

Then the tem­ple of God was opened in heav­en, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His tem­ple. And there were light­nings, nois­es, thun­der­ings, an earth­quake, and great hail. Now a great sign appeared in heav­en: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a gar­land of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.… And the drag­on stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. —Rev. 11:19–12:5

As King David him­self had proph­e­sied in Psalm 2, the Mes­si­ah is the great King who comes to rule all nations with a rod of iron. He was born of a vir­gin, cru­ci­fied, res­ur­rect­ed, and in the Ascen­sion, he was caught up to God and His throne. In Rev­e­la­tion 12, this male child is Jesus.

And Mary is his moth­er. She is this great woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a gar­land of twelve stars. And ever since the very ear­ly days of the Church, Chris­tians have rec­og­nized Mary as the ful­fill­ment of the Ark of the Covenant. St. Hip­poly­tus in the sec­ond cen­tu­ry, and St. Gre­go­ry Thau­matur­gus in the third, are among the many saints who have iden­ti­fied Mary with the Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant had some impres­sive con­tents:

  • Moses’ two stone tablets of the Ten Com­mand­ments
  • A jar of man­na from the wilder­ness
  • Aaron’s staff which had bud­ded with life

Mary her­self being the new Ark of the Covenant, she con­tained the ful­fill­ment of all these things:

  • Instead of God’s Word writ­ten in stone,
  • Mary’s womb con­tained the Word made flesh
  • Instead of man­na from the wilder­ness,
  • Mary’s womb con­tained the Bread of Life
  • Instead of a staff from the first Levit­i­cal high priest, Mary’s womb con­tained the great High Priest him­self, Jesus Christ, whose priest­hood is after the order of Melchizedek
  • Instead of a bud­ded staff sym­bol­iz­ing res­ur­rec­tion, Mary’s womb con­tained the Res­ur­rec­tion and the Life him­self

Thus, it is fit­ting that the apos­tle John hon­ors Mary and the Ark at the same time, and in the same breath. In the book of Rev­e­la­tion, St. John sees the Ark of the Covenant in the heav­en­ly tem­ple, and then he imme­di­ate­ly describes this woman who gave birth to Christ, this woman who now wears the sun, moon, and stars for her cloth­ing.

Just as we see ear­ly Chris­tians iden­ti­fy­ing Mary as the new Ark, we also see ear­ly Chris­tians rec­og­niz­ing Mary in the twelfth chap­ter of Rev­e­la­tion. In the fourth cen­tu­ry, Epipha­nius of Salamis men­tions this pas­sage in ref­er­ence to Mary. And in the fifth cen­tu­ry, in the old­est-exist­ing Greek com­men­tary on the book of Rev­e­la­tion, Oec­u­me­nius says the fol­low­ing:

And a sign appeared in heav­en, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet.” As I said, it is speak­ing about the moth­er of our Sav­ior. And the vision appro­pri­ate­ly depicts her as in heav­en and not on the earth, for she is pure in soul and body, equal to an angel and a cit­i­zen of heav­en. She pos­sess­es God who rests in heaven—“for heav­en is my throne,” it says—yet she is flesh, although she has noth­ing in com­mon with the earth, nor is there any evil in her. Rather, she is ful­ly exalt­ed, whol­ly wor­thy of heav­en, even though she pos­sess­es our own human nature and sub­stance.
—William C. Wein­rich, Greek Com­men­taries on Rev­e­la­tion, p. 51

All True Chris­tians are Roy­al­ty

When ear­ly Chris­tians praise Mary in this way, and when Scrip­ture itself gives her such great hon­or, there are still some peo­ple who won­der:

Should any human being be hon­ored in this way?”

It makes sense that Jesus is King, because he is God. But Mary is not God.”

Sure­ly there is no king in heav­en except Jesus, and sure­ly heav­en has no queen.”

Of course, it is true that Jesus is exalt­ed far above every­one. He is God, and there is no man, woman, or angel who is equal with Him. He alone is God. You, me, Mary, and the Saints are all human beings who have been redeemed by God, being con­formed to the image of Christ.

But what does it mean to be con­formed to the image of Christ? If Jesus is a great king, and you are con­formed per­fect­ly to his image, that means you your­self will be a king (or queen). In fact, Scrip­ture itself tells us this. Believe it or not, Jesus is not the only king in the Church. Accord­ing to the fifth chap­ter of the book of Rev­e­la­tion, Jesus has redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every tribe and tongue and peo­ple and nation, and has made us kings and priests to our God. (Rev. 5:9–10)

In oth­er words, Mary is not the only per­son in heav­en to be exalt­ed as roy­al­ty. Mary is queen, the apos­tles are kings, and by the grace of God, you and I will join their sides as both kings and queens. In God’s pres­ence, every saint will be rec­og­nized as roy­al­ty. And Jesus alone will bear the title “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.”

Mary is the Queen Moth­er

Rev­e­la­tion is not the only place in Scrip­ture that rec­og­nizes Mary as the Queen of Heav­en. We also see prophe­cies of her in the Old Tes­ta­ment Scrip­tures.

In Israel, many gen­er­a­tions of kings were born in the Davidic line, point­ing for­ward to the even­tu­al birth of Jesus, the King of Kings. 2 Samuel 7:12, Psalm 72, and Psalm 89 were ini­tial­ly writ­ten about King Solomon, and lat­er these Scrip­tures find their ful­fill­ment in Christ him­self. Solomon was the “seed of David” who reigned in peace, pros­per­i­ty, and wis­dom. Jesus is the ulti­mate “seed of David” who com­plete­ly ful­fills these prophe­cies.

But in Israel, they did not rec­og­nize the king’s wife as a queen. Instead, the king’s moth­er had this great hon­or.

Solomon had many wives, but only Bathshe­ba his moth­er was rec­og­nized as his queen. She was the Queen moth­er over Israel. She was sub­or­di­nate to the King, to be sure. But she sat on a throne, and was grant­ed the sta­tus of roy­al­ty and great polit­i­cal pow­er.

Scrip­ture doesn’t tell us the names of all the kings’ wives. But it does tell us who their moth­ers were. For hun­dreds of years, from the time of Queen Bathshe­ba, to Queen Naamah, to Queen Maachah, to Queen Azubah, to Queen Athali­ah, to Queen Jehoad­dan, to Queen Jecho­li­ah, to Queen Jerusha, to Queen Abi, to Queen Hep­hz­ibah, to Queen Meshullemeth, to Queen Jedi­dah, to Queen Hamu­tal, to Queen Zebu­dah, to Queen Nehush­ta, the moth­ers of the Davidic kings retained this exalt­ed sta­tus.

Also notice 1 Kings 2:19, where the Queen Moth­er is grant­ed a roy­al place of hon­or, sit­ting at the right hand of the King. The King him­self even ris­es in her pres­ence, and bows down to her! He is still the King, but he shows his moth­er an immense amount of hon­or. Now think about Jesus, the long-await­ed seed of David who will sit upon the throne per­ma­nent­ly in the King­dom of Heav­en. If Jesus is the right­ful heir to the Davidic throne, then who is the Queen Moth­er? It’s Mary.

Psalm 45 also proph­e­sies of both King Jesus and his Queen. Hebrews 1:8 reveals that Psalm 45:6 is a ref­er­ence to Jesus. And Psalm 45:9 refers to his Queen. Remem­ber that the Queen in the Davidic king­dom was always the King’s moth­er, not the King’s bride. And since Mary is the moth­er of Jesus, Psalm 45:9 is a ref­er­ence to Queen Mary.

So it is not sur­pris­ing when we see Mary, the Moth­er of God, high­ly hon­ored as a queen in the book of Rev­e­la­tion, clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and a gar­land of twelve stars around her head. As the King’s moth­er, she is roy­al­ty.

The Dor­mi­tion and Assump­tion of Mary

On this feast, we cel­e­brate the Dor­mi­tion of the Blessed Vir­gin Mary, and her bod­i­ly Assump­tion into heav­en. She is the pro­to­type for all Chris­tians, as the first per­son lit­er­al­ly to invite Jesus to live with­in her. Long before the 12 apos­tles walked and talked with Christ, Mary was already very close to her Son.

  • The apos­tles heard Jesus speak; Mary taught Jesus how to speak
  • The apos­tles ate food pro­vid­ed by Jesus; Mary fed Jesus with milk from her own body
  • The apos­tles saw Jesus sleep­ing on a boat; Mary rocked Jesus to sleep on her lap
  • The apos­tles walked with Jesus for 3 years; Mary walked with Jesus for 33 years
  • At the cru­ci­fix­ion, almost all the apos­tles ran away; Mary stood at the foot of the cross, beside St. John

At Pen­te­cost, Mary was among the 120 in the upper room, and she par­tic­i­pat­ed in the first mas­sive out­pour­ing of the Holy Spir­it upon the Church. As she aged, she lived in Eph­esus with John the apos­tle. When she died, Jesus received her soul direct­ly into heav­en. And three days after her death, she fol­lowed her Son in res­ur­rec­tion, and was assumed bod­i­ly into heav­en. Mary is the first Chris­t­ian to expe­ri­ence the full­ness of salvation—including res­ur­rec­tion and glo­ri­fi­ca­tion. This is a belief that has been passed down in the Church from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, through­out the ages.

And while Scrip­ture does not record the time of her assump­tion into heav­en, it does record a glo­ri­ous vision of her in heav­en after her assump­tion had already tak­en place. The apos­tle John had stood with Mary at the foot of the cross, he had tak­en Mary to live in his own house, and then in the final book he wrote, St. John tells us of Mary, exalt­ed in the heav­ens.

When St. John and Mary stood at the foot of the cross, Jesus told Mary that John was now her son, and that Mary was now John’s moth­er. In Rev­e­la­tion 12:17, the apos­tle John talks about “the rest of her off­spring, who keep the com­mand­ments of God and have the tes­ti­mo­ny of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17), let­ting us know that Mary is our moth­er, too.

There­fore, like the archangel Gabriel, we say, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Like St. Eliz­a­beth, we say, “Who am I, that the moth­er of my Lord should come to me?” Like Mary her­self, we say she is “blessed among women.” And like St. John the apos­tle, we rec­og­nize Mary as the Moth­er of God (Theotokos), high­ly exalt­ed in heav­en as a mag­nif­i­cent queen, clothed with the sun, the moon at her feet and a gar­land of twelve stars around her head.