Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above

Today we celebrate the Queenship of our Blessed Mother Mary. A new-ish Catholic, this concept is still something I am learning about. Maybe we are all always learning about it, though, so I won’t fret over that. I will say when I learned about the connection of the Queen Mother in the Old Testament and Mary, I was thrilled. Actually all the references to Mary I missed as a fundamental Baptist–from Eve to Revelation–rather profoundly struck me as I was learning about Catholicism; I have felt safe, relieved, humbled, and honored to build a relationship with her since and rather sorry that she is skimmed over by many other Christians. I love the rosary, pondering and attempting to emulate her graces, and the Immaculate Heart.

The thing most non-Catholics do not understand is that Mary never takes anything away from her Son. Catholics do not worship her. We love her for the beautiful, wonderful woman, wife, mother, and example she is and we love her for her fateful “be it unto me according to your word” that was the means to bring salvation–her son, our Lord–into the world. She always gently leads us to Him, and like her motherly commands to the servants at Cana, she advises us to do whatever He tells us. She prays for us and loves all of us as her adopted children.

Being the dork that I am, I love to see how other countries and cultures view the Blessed Virgin and the feasts and celebrations held in her honor around the world.

Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes–France

Fatima

Our Lady of Fatima–Portugal

indian virgin mary

Indian Madonna–I have no idea who painted her, I found her on Pinterest. Isn’t she lovely?

Madonna and Child by Tim Ashkar

asian virgin mary

Obviously, being married to a devout Catholic Mexican, I have a special devotion to the Virgin de Guadalupe; we get up early on December 12th for the celebration of that special Mass and the church is PACKED to standing room only and filled with the overwhelming smell of roses. Dances and a procession follow and then tamale season is kicked off in a big tent in the parking lot. Easily one of the best holidays of the year.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

“A woman clothed with the sun” Our Lady de Guadalupe

I also love learning about and having little home celebrations of other Marian holidays throughout our liturgical year, but as wonderful as all of those things are–and our incessant holidays and feast days are some of the best things about being Catholic–I really love pondering just the simple girl, Mary.

My husband had an artist paint a copy of the Polish Madonna for me for Christmas last year. I begged for a copy for months, and being the art snob that he is, no regular re-print would do, so he scoured the internet for someone that could actually paint her. I hang her in a place of honor above my piano in the living room and I can look at her every time I walk through to my bedroom or to the kitchen. I love how little Baby Jesus is just sitting in the dirt like any little baby, playing while his mommy does the laundry.

Polish Madonna

Polish Madonna

I tear up when I think about how she must have felt to have the baby, her God and Creator, moving and kicking inside of her. I imagine the moment his little naked body was laid in her arms and she looked into his eyes that were so innocent and yet held the secrets of the universe. She probably counted every finger and toe, just like any other mother, knowing he would be perfect, but checking all the same. She got up at night, probably several times, to feed him, check his breath, change his nappies. Think of that! She had to CLEAN Jesus. It was to her that he ran when he fell and scraped his little knees, with her he cuddled when he was feeling under the weather. She sang him songs and rocked him to sleep. She made his meals, maybe even some he didn’t like as well as some that he loved and that would remind him of her when he was older.  I think of her in her plain gowns and humble spirit, cooking and all the sudden a bunch of rich kings from the Orient show up at her doorstep bearing gifts richer than she would have ever seen for her little infant son playing in the corner with little blocks of wood. She tossed him in the air and tickled and blew raspberries on his belly to make him laugh. I sort of chuckle when I think about the time Jesus got “lost” in Jerusalem when he was about 12, and she was worried frantic…”Oy vey! I lost the Son of God! What am I going to tell Him???”  I smile when her mama role comes out at the wedding at Cana and she asks him to do something about the hospitality catastrophe about to occur.

Holy Mary and boy JesusMaryplayingwithJesusmarybreastfeeding

And I cry actual tears when I think of her watching her only son get tortured to death, and then his bruised, bloody body lowered into her arms. How she probably kissed his face and wiped the blood from him as she removed the horrid crown they shoved on his head and mocking purple cloth. The simple woman, who knew somehow this was not the end, but still had to go through the absolute worst pain and suffering imaginable. I wonder if she even for a moment had that doubt and fear start to creep in–just  for a millisecond– when she held his broken body that maybe she was mistaken about God’s plan for her and all of humanity. Her beloved baby was taken from her in the most cruel way ever dreamt of by wicked men, and how she lived through it, I cannot fathom. God gave her the grace to squash that doubt that tried to attack her, I am sure, and the strength to endure the pain and offer up her suffering for all of us–the same grace she was given to crush the head of the serpent. But she was fully human, not divine, and had to choose to keep the faith remember that with God “nothing will be impossible”.  I thank God she did.

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pieta

Note: I try to source pictures when I can. All photos were found on the internet and remain property of their rightful owners and I thank them for their beautiful masterpieces that share joy in the world.

Our Lord and His Cool Ladies–Ultima Parte

 

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
I admit to being late to the Mary party. I cannot help it, I was raised Baptist. As a rule, many Protestants don’t talk much about her—that would be too Catholicy for them. In all my years in a fundamental Baptist church, having attended services on Wednesdays, twice on Sundays and several revivals a year, I cannot recall one sermon about Mary. There were several sermons about other women in the Bible, though; Esther, Ruth, Hannah and other woman called by name, and some that were not, such as the woman at the well and the one about to be stoned for adultery. Mary, if mentioned, was usually around Christmas only, and usually the emphasis was that she was “just a vessel”, and nothing said at all about her agreement to do God’s will. I am not downing Baptists or any other Protestants, but I do feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t get to know this wonderful, amazing, perfect person and her crucial role in God’s plan for our salvation through Jesus. I do think that we have much more in common than many of us think and a little listening, research, and open-mindedness would prove that and bridge the gap.

 

Lemme just get something straight to everyone real quick before we scratch the surface of the awesomeness of our Blessed Mother, just because I have heard some pretty atrocious things coming from the mouths of misinformed people—Catholics do NOT worship Mary. I wouldn’t even say they pray TO her, necessarily. Catholics love her and treat her as a mother and friend; they ask that she will pray for THEM and intercede on their behalf. If you aren’t aware of whys and wherefores concerning the Communion of Saints, see here. Catholics believe that those of us that have “gone on” before are perfectly alive in Christ. You are still a Christian, on Earth and in Heaven. I think that Protestants and Catholics alike can agree on this. Why not ask for the intercession of those that have “gone on” before to pray for us, in the same manner that I may ask you to pray for me? The Christians in Heaven are in a state of absolute grace (another point we can all agree on, thanks to the Blood of the Lamb), then their prayers are especially powerful (James 5:16). We are encouraged to ask for intercession, even. I fully intend on doing a post later about prayer; my understanding of the definition of prayer is certainly much broader and deeper since reconciling my faith, even though I am still a wee baby Catholic.

 
Anyway…so Mary rocks. She is the role model of all role models for women and people in general. She was made perfect, like Eve, without original sin. This was because she was intended to be the vessel to carry and birth God. God obviously couldn’t dwell in sin or a sinful creature, and sin, by definition is the separation of ourselves from God by free will, so it makes perfect sense that she was born perfect and the way we were all MEANT to be, if not for that fateful bite of fruit back in the day. Like Eve, and like the rest of us, she was given free will. Just because she was BORN sinless, doesn’t mean that she would necessarily have stayed that way, had she chosen to sin and separate herself from her perfect communion with God. But so thankfully, she did not sin and she chose the will of God her whole life, and most especially when Gabriel visited her, so she was able to bring Jesus into the world that so desperately needed Him. Her lack of sin is pointed out in the Bible specifically by the archangel Gabriel when he addresses her “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” in Luke 1:28. To be FULL of grace, she had to be without sin. This does not make her God-like, anymore than the rest of us, however. She was still a human, in need of a Savior, because at any time she could have sinned because she had free will to do so.

 
Mary exhibits 10 virtues which we would all do well to imitate. The super-awesome ladies that often contribute to Blessed is She did a really profound series, hosted by one of my most favorite-est blogs, To The Heights,  on these virtues and I encourage everyone to read it. They are way more practiced in explaining them and far more eloquent than yours truly. You can click on any of the below and be magically transported. Be prepared to spend hours pondering these things in your heart.

 
•  Ardent Charity: Mary’s love for God was behind her every decision
Profound Humility: Though born perfect, Mary herself did not put herself above anyone…because perfect people wouldn’t do that. She was humbled that God chose her: a woman, a young girl, to fulfill his great promise that had been thousands of years in the making.
Universal Mortification: Mary was willing to lay down her life and her wants to follow the will of God
Constant Mental Prayer: She pondered things in her heart and talked to God. She was aware of God’s presence within her, around her.
Blind Obedience: Mary didn’t count the cost or fear the consequences that might be inflicted on her by other people, she followed God’s will to the letter.
Divine Wisdom: Mary always asked God’s spirit to guide her. Her lack of trust in God was the exact downfall of Eve, who instead doubted God’s promises sought knowledge and wisdom outside of God, so as to attempt to be on par with Him.
Surpassing Purity: Mary had an immaculate heart free from sin
Angelic Sweetness: Being sinless, she was free from pettiness and meanness and brought nothing but joy and love to those around her.
Lively Faith: She always sought God’s will and knew He was greater than any human fears and would protect her. She knew the laws of her Jewish faith would condemn her to death for adultery, and she knew that Joseph would catch on to her being pregnant at some point, but she trusted that God had a plan.
Heroic Patience: Mary had faith in God’s plans, even when she couldn’t understand them. She was worried and troubled at first that God chose her.  She knew that what was happening was divine and special, but even she had to wait and see what the exact fulfillment of prophecy of the Messiah would be. She accepted God’s will and waited quietly, fulfilling her duty in raising Jesus.

 
I know I possess NONE of the above, but it IS within my ability to try. And our Blessed Mother is there to guide me and all of her children every step of the way. Makes you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it? She is there to pick us up when we stumble and fall, smile upon us when we do well, and take us by the hand, just like a child, to her Son. If you are not familiar with her, you really should get to know her. Regardless of your faith tradition, there is no harm in that. I guarantee you will be so very pleasantly surprised and happy you did!

 

And there you have it! Three Marys for this Martha! I hope that in my journey I can learn my lesson like Martha and work and serve my Lord without complaining and adopt the sweet virtues of her (our) esteemed sisters (and mother) in Christ. I know I will probably fail daily in some way or another, but I know they are cheering me on through to the finish line.

 

Which virtues of the Three Marys are you especially working on?

virgin-mary-mother-of-god-virgo-maria
Blessed Mother, Queen of Heaven, please pray for us and guide us with your gentle way to the open arms of your Son. Help us to adopt your virtues so that we may lead more fulfilling earthly lives and so that we may join you in Heaven to sing praises to Our King!

p.s. I am about to begin my own little Bible study at home (I am very thankful for my Baptist upbringing for fostering my love of Scripture almost from birth) using Father Mitch Pacwa’s Mary: Virgin, Mother, and Queen, which you can buy on Amazon. I bought my copy in person from him about a month ago when he visited my parish and now that I am in the lull of Ordinary Time, I am going to tackle it. If any of you want to read it with me and have discussion via email, feel free! I am always happy to have a study partner 🙂

p.p.s I am so very new at blogging, and I JUST learned how to make a hyperlink yesterday, so if these links should fail, just hop over to Olivia’s blog, To The Heights and search for the virtues of Mary and she shall direct thy paths.