Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whit Thursday - Ad Coeli Reginam

excerpts from Pope Pius XII Encyclical 'Ad Coeli Reginam'

From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

2. Following upon the frightful calamities which before Our very eyes have reduced flourishing cities, towns, and villages to ruins, We see to Our sorrow that many great moral evils are being spread abroad in what may be described as a violent flood. Occasionally We behold justice giving way; and, on the one hand and the other, the victory of the powers of corruption. The threat of this fearful crisis fills Us with a great anguish, and so with confidence We have recourse to Mary Our Queen, making known to her those sentiments of filial reverence which are not Ours alone, but which belong to all those who glory in the name of Christian.

8. From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God. He "will reign in the house of Jacob forever,"[5] "the Prince of Peace,"[6] the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords."[7] And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God.

9. Hence it is not surprising that the early writers of the Church called Mary "the Mother of the King" and "the Mother of the Lord," basing their stand on the words of St. Gabriel the archangel, who foretold that the Son of Mary would reign forever,[8] and on the words of Elizabeth who greeted her with reverence and called her "the Mother of my Lord."[9] Thereby they clearly signified that she derived a certain eminence and exalted station from the royal dignity of her Son.

11. St. Gregory Nazianzen calls Mary "the Mother of the King of the universe," and the "Virgin Mother who brought forth the King of the whole world,"[12] while Prudentius asserts that the Mother marvels "that she has brought forth God as man, and even as Supreme King."[13]
16. The Blessed Virgin, sitting at the right hand of God to pray for us is hailed by another writer of that same era in these words, "the Queen of mortal man, the most holy Mother of God."[18]

19. Likewise St. Germanus speaks to the humble Virgin in these words: "Be enthroned, Lady, for it is fitting that you should sit in an exalted place since you are a Queen and glorious above all kings."[21] He likewise calls her the "Queen of all of those who dwell on earth."[22]

20. She is called by St. John Damascene: "Queen, ruler, and lady,"[23] and also "the Queen of every creature."[24] Another ancient writer of the Eastern Church calls her "favored Queen," "the perpetual Queen beside the King, her son," whose "snow-white brow is crowned with a golden diadem."[25]

22. The theologians of the Church, deriving their teaching from these and almost innumerable other testimonies handed down long ago, have called the most Blessed Virgin the Queen of all creatures, the Queen of the world, and the Ruler of all.

23. The Supreme Shepherds of the Church have considered it their duty to promote by eulogy and exhortation the devotion of the Christian people to the heavenly Mother and Queen. Simply passing over the documents of more recent Pontiffs, it is helpful to recall that as early as the seventh century Our predecessor St. Martin I called Mary "our glorious Lady, ever Virgin."[27] St. Agatho, in the synodal letter sent to the fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council called her "Our Lady, truly and in a proper sense the Mother of God."[28] And in the eighth century Gregory II in the letter sent to St. Germanus, the patriarch, and read in the Seventh Ecumenical Council with all the Fathers concurring, called the Mother of God: "The Queen of all, the true Mother of God," and also "the Queen of all Christians."[29]

24. We wish also to recall that Our predecessor of immortal memory, Sixtus IV, touched favorably upon the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, beginning the Apostolic Letter Cum praeexcelsa[30] with words in which Mary is called "Queen," "Who is always vigilant to intercede with the king whom she bore." Benedict XIV declared the same thing in his Apostolic Letter Gloriosae Dominae, in which Mary is called "Queen of heaven and earth," and it is stated that the sovereign King has in some way communicated to her his ruling power.[31]

25. For all these reasons St. Alphonsus Ligouri, in collecting the testimony of past ages, writes these words with evident devotion: "Because the virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of 'Queen'."[32]

32. Finally, art which is based upon Christian principles and is animated by their spirit as something faithfully interpreting the sincere and freely expressed devotion of the faithful, has since the Council of Ephesus portrayed Mary as Queen and Empress seated upon a royal throne adorned with royal insignia, crowned with the royal diadem and surrounded by the host of angels and saints in heaven, and ruling not only over nature and its powers but also over the machinations of Satan. Iconography, in representing the royal dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has ever been enriched with works of highest artistic value and greatest beauty; it has even taken the form of representing colorfully the divine Redeemer crowning His mother with a resplendent diadem.

35. But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. "What more joyful, what sweeter thought can we have"--as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI wrote --"than that Christ is our King not only by natural right, but also by an acquired right: that which He won by the redemption? Would that all men, now forgetful of how much we cost Our Savior, might recall to mind the words, 'You were redeemed, not with gold or silver which perishes, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb spotless and undefiled.[43] We belong not to ourselves now, since Christ has bought us 'at a great price'."[44]/[45]

39. Certainly, in the full and strict meaning of the term, only Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is King; but Mary, too, as Mother of the divine Christ, as His associate in the redemption, in his struggle with His enemies and His final victory over them, has a share, though in a limited and analogous way, in His royal dignity. For from her union with Christ she attains a radiant eminence transcending that of any other creature; from her union with Christ she receives the royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer's Kingdom; from her union with Christ finally is derived the inexhaustible efficacy of her maternal intercession before the Son and His Father.

40. Hence it cannot be doubted that Mary most Holy is far above all other creatures in dignity, and after her Son possesses primacy over all. "You have surpassed every creature," sings St. Sophronius. "What can be more sublime than your joy, O Virgin Mother? What more noble than this grace, which you alone have received from God"?[52] To this St. Germanus adds: "Your honor and dignity surpass the whole of creation; your greatness places you above the angels."[53] And St. John Damascene goes so far as to say: "Limitless is the difference between God's servants and His Mother."[54]

41. In order to understand better this sublime dignity of the Mother of God over all creatures let us recall that the holy Mother of God was, at the very moment of her Immaculate Conception, so filled with grace as to surpass the grace of all the Saints. Wherefore, as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius IX wrote, God "showered her with heavenly gifts and graces from the treasury of His divinity so far beyond what He gave to all the angels and saints that she was ever free from the least stain of sin; she is so beautiful and perfect, and possesses such fullness of innocence and holiness, that under God a greater could not be dreamed, and only God can comprehend the marvel."[55]

42. Besides, the Blessed Virgin possessed, after Christ, not only the highest degree of excellence and perfection, but also a share in that influence by which He, her Son and our Redeemer, is rightly said to reign over the minds and wills of men. For if through His Humanity the divine Word performs miracles and gives graces, if He uses His Sacraments and Saints as instruments for the salvation of men, why should He not make use of the role and work of His most holy Mother in imparting to us the fruits of redemption? "With a heart that is truly a mother's," to quote again Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, "does she approach the problem of our salvation, and is solicitous for the whole human race; made Queen of heaven and earth by the Lord, exalted above all choirs of angels and saints, and standing at the right hand of her only a Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, she intercedes powerfully for us with a mother's prayers, obtains what she seeks, and cannot be refused."[56] On this point another of Our Predecessors of happy memory, Leo XIII, has said that an "almost immeasurable" power has been given Mary in the distribution of graces;[57] St. Pius X adds that she fills this office "as by the right of a mother."[58]

43. Let all Christians, therefore, glory in being subjects of the Virgin Mother of God, who, while wielding royal power, is on fire with a mother's love.

49. All, according to their state, should strive to bring alive the wondrous virtues of our heavenly Queen and most loving Mother through constant effort of mind and manner. Thus will it come about that all Christians, in honoring and imitating their sublime Queen and Mother, will realize they are truly brothers, and with all envy and avarice thrust aside, will promote love among classes, respect the rights of the weak, cherish peace. No one should think himself a son of Mary, worthy of being received under her powerful protection, unless, like her, he is just, gentle and pure, and shows a sincere desire for true brotherhood, not harming or injuring but rather helping and comforting others.

50. In some countries of the world there are people who are unjustly persecuted for professing their Christian faith and who are deprived of their divine and human rights to freedom; up till now reasonable demands and repeated protests have availed nothing to remove these evils. May the powerful Queen of creation, whose radiant glance banishes storms and tempests and brings back cloudless skies, look upon these her innocent and tormented children with eyes of mercy; may the Virgin, who is able to subdue violence beneath her foot, grant to them that they may soon enjoy the rightful freedom to practice their religion openly, so that, while serving the cause of the Gospel, they may also contribute to the strength and progress of nations by their harmonious cooperation, by the practice of extraordinary virtues which are a glowing example in the midst of bitter trials.

51. By this Encyclical Letter We are instituting a feast so that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God. We are convinced that this feast will help to preserve, strengthen and prolong that peace among nations which daily is almost destroyed by recurring crises. Is she not a rainbow in the clouds reaching towards God, the pledge of a covenant of peace?[62] "Look upon the rainbow, and bless Him that made it; surely it is beautiful in its brightness. It encompasses the heaven about with the circle of its glory, the hands of the Most High have displayed it."[63] Whoever, therefore, reverences the Queen of heaven and earth--and let no one consider himself exempt from this tribute of a grateful and loving soul--let him invoke the most effective of Queens, the Mediatrix of peace; let him respect and preserve peace, which is not wickedness unpunished nor freedom without restraint, but a well-ordered harmony under the rule of the will of God; to its safeguarding and growth the gentle urgings and commands of the Virgin Mary impel us.

52. Earnestly desiring that the Queen and Mother of Christendom may hear these Our prayers, and by her peace make happy a world shaken by hate, and may, after this exile show unto us all Jesus, Who will be our eternal peace and joy, to you, Venerable Brothers, and to your flocks, as a promise of God's divine help and a pledge of Our love, from Our heart We impart the Apostolic Benediction.

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Ad Coeli Reginam