by John Pacheco
Throughout history, mankind has grappled with the most fundamental questions of our existence. Does God exist? What is the meaning of life? Is there an after-life? Beneath these substantial questions, however, is a more fundamental question that pervades and sustains all of these questions. It has become the central, albeit hidden, question in society today, and because it has become so, the pursuit of these fundamental questions, which have long fascinated mankind since his existence, has been principally abandoned in the latter half of this century. The question is this: Does Truth exist? Indeed, for many, this question is problematic since they no longer speak of Truth as an absolute, categorical imperative, but rather only of pluralistic and secular truths. The idea of a singular Truth in moral questions, therefore, has been replaced with a more compromising and tolerant idea of truth to such an extent that the essential meaning of the concept has been saturated to the point of multiplicity and absurdity.
The sharp contrast between the two opposing views of this truth is evident when the question of religion is considered. It is quite apparent to any honest individual, for instance, that people with religious faith believe in an absolute Truth, whereas people without faith usually assign a subjective meaning to truth, thereby denying the very nature of truth itself - its universality. This affirmation is no where better proven then during the Passion of Christ before Pilate. Jesus said, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who listen to truth listen to my voice. Truth, said Pilate, What is that? (John 18:37-38). The essential bond between Truth, the Good, and Freedom has been largely lost sight of by present-day culture. As a result, helping man to rediscover it represents nowadays one of the specific requirements of the Churchs mission, for the salvation of the world. Pilates question: What is truth? reflects the distressing perplexity of a man who often no longer knows who he is, whence he comes, and where he is going The saving power of the truth is contested, and freedom alone, uprooted from any objectivity, is left to decide by itself what is good and what is evil. (1)
The sad state of moral affairs in modern society is, for the most part, a direct consequence of the implicit denial of the concept of an absolute Truth. Furthermore, it is apparent to all that the current age is generally very hostile to religious, absolute moral truth, and conversely, that it is very embrasive of the humanistic ethic which favours moral relativism. In fact, this relativist conviction has been able to successfully separate religion and science from one another to such a degree that it is now widely accepted that these two disciplines are mutually exclusive. Religion and science are now regarded henceforth as two separate and opposing disciplines of revelation instead of two complementary forms for reaching the objective truth.
Although true religion has acknowledged that science should exercise an important role in helping the human race understand both the physical world and our origin in it, contemporary science and secular rationalism insist that they, and they alone, can provide all of the answers without reference or even acknowledgement of religion. As a result, a new religion has emerged in society to provide a dual role: to act as a surrogate for the Christian faith in western society and to provide an effective complement to the secularism which has effectively become the state religion. This fact has become so apparent that government need no longer maintain the separation of church and state but rather science and state, since the former has essentially replaced religion. The fusion of this dual role has resulted in a philosophy of scientism - the belief that science and human reason only have the answers to the truth in all matters of the human experience, both in the physical and metaphysical realm. At the foundation of this movement is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. (2) In fact, through the philosophers who begin to give exclusive value to science and then to reason, there is a gradual tendency to constitute human intelligence alone as the sole criterion of truth. There comes to birth the great philosophical errors which continue through the centuries down to [our] days. (3)
It is from this secular establishment that an attempt must be made to break the scientism that dominates the collective hostile attitude towards objective truth. The objective moral truth, which has been revealed through the holy scriptures and faithfully interpreted by the Holy Roman Catholic Church, has been manipulated to such an extent by secularists and false religionists that absolute moral truth and God are relegated to folklore and mythology. But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God, the Creator. In the depths of his heart, there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. (4) Nevertheless, this moral darkness has succeeded in suffocating and numbing the conscience of mankind that even heaven itself is now warning us of this great spiritual and moral evil which envelopes the modern world. The spiritual balance between good and evil has been upset to such a degree that the physical world is being adversely affected. Indeed, the virtual avalanche of paranormal and religious phenomena, which have been occurring during the past century and in particular during the last fifty years, is a wake-up call to the worlds collective rejection of God.
It is in this spiritual darkness, this culture of death which now blinds our world, that a ray of light is beginning to pierce this present darkness. A light that will not and cannot be extinguished from our sights by the powers of evil because it emanates from the most pure and venerable of all Gods creatures who is known to the faithful by many titles, including such names as mystical rose, gate of heaven, morning star, ark of the covenant, queen of angels, and queen of heaven. This beautiful creature, who the poet William Wordsworth once so beautifully described as our tainted natures solitary boast, is speaking to us, imploring us with the greatest urgency to return to God and His commandments.
She is a sign of contradiction and dissension in Christianity, but like so many other signs of contradiction, she is also a source of unity among her spiritual children. It is precisely through this woman clothed with the sun, that God will confound the proud and crush the serpent forever. It is through this sign of contradiction and division that unity will be realized, and through which Christ will reign. Many Protestants who do not understand the Catholic devotion to Mary often misunderstand why she is called the Queen of Heaven. There is a presumption that since Jesus is regarded as the King by all Christians and Mary is the Queen for Catholics, they are somehow equal in the sense that a husband and wife are equal. This is not the teaching of the Church, and the title Queen of Heaven must be correctly understood before it can be appropriately applied.
Mother of the King
At the Annunciation, Marys words help define her relationship to her Son and Saviour. When the Archangel Gabriel announced that she was chosen to be the Mother of God, Mary replied humbly, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). The very conspicuous word in this reply is handmaid which means servant. In the Old Testament, one thousand years previously, Queen Bathsheba petitioned King David to allow Solomon, their child, to become King over Solomons half-brother, Adonijah. When Bathsheba reached the Kings room, she bowed in homage to the king, who said to her, What do you wish? She answered him: My lord, you swore to me your handmaid by the Lord, your God, that my son Solomon should reign after you and sit upon your throne. The king swore, As the Lord lives, who has delivered me from all distress, this very day I will fulfill the oath I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, that your son Solomon should reign after me and should sit upon my throne in my place. (1 Kings 1:16-17, 1 Kings 1:29-30).
The passage serves as direct prophesy to Christ who was in the line of David and who became King of kings. It also serves as a striking parallel to the Annunciation in the New Testament. Both Mary and Bathsheba are called handmaids, indicating their relationship to their Kings; that is, not equal to but servants of the King. In the royal realm, a King can only really ascend to his throne through a proper and true King and Queen. If the Eternal Father is a King, and the Son is truly a King, then it is only fitting and becoming that the Mother of the King should also be a Queen. For both Bathsheba and Mary, both were mothers of Kings: Bathsheba was the mother of King Solomon and Mary is the Mother of Christ the King. The beauty of Gods revelation is indeed awesome and majestic when one considers the magnificent transposition of supplication by the two mothers. In the Old Testament, it is Bathsheba who asks her King for her Son to reign, while in the New Testament, it is the Eternal King who asks Mary.
Similarly, later when Solomon becomes King, the full parallel is realized. Bathsheba intercedes with her son King Solomon just as Mary does at the wedding feast at Cana with Jesus (Cf. John 2:3-6). Neither Christ nor Solomon refused their mothers intercession: Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you. (1 Kings 2: 20-21). If the sinful Bathsheba could make such a request and command such a response, Our Lord would not likely deny His own Mother.
Just before King Solomon uttered those prophetic words, the King stood up to meet his mother, paid her homage, sat down upon his thrown, and provided a throne for his mother, who sat at his right hand (1 Kings 2:19). Sitting at someones right hand implies great power (Cf. Luke 22:69). Is God trying to suggest that Mary sits at the right hand of Jesus as Bathsheba sat at the right hand of Solomon? Indeed, recall the ambition of the Apostles James and John when they asked that Jesus grant them seats at His left and right hand. Jesus response was indeed an appropriate one, to sit at my right or my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant, whoever wishes to be the first among you will be the slave of all. (Mark 10:40-44). Jesus said the greatest must be servant of all, and the greatest servant of the Master, the handmaid of the Lord at His right hand, was the servant of the Servant for thirty years of His life.
Queen of the King
In Holy Writ, there are a number of comparisons and prophesies made between events and people in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament. Unfortunately, these exegeses often by-pass the numerous instances in the Old Testament where valid comparisons between Old Testament women and Mary can also be made. Consider the case of Queen Esther.
In the twelfth year of the reign of King Ahasuerus, a decree of extermination was issued against the Jews. Queen Esther, who had kept her Jewish identity hidden from the king, was overcome with grief since her cousin, who raised her, was a known Jew. The Queen wanted to petition the King for her cousin Mordecais release, but she could not do so since, to approach the king unsummoned, could be punishable by death. Esthers love for her cousin, however, compelled her to take the risk. When the King saw that Esther approached unsummoned, he was angry. Seeing his Queens distress, however, he took pity on her and said, Take heart. You will not die; our order only applies to ordinary people (Esther 5:13-14). Centuries later, the holy family would set out for Bethlehem to be registered in the census of Caesar Augustus. Indeed, it was ironic that King Ahasuerus would not enforce the law on a tainted Queen because she was not ordinary, yet how unordinary Mary was, but how ordinary she made herself by submitting to the imperial edict. And not only did Mary submit to it, but she did so humbly and without ingratitude or insult. It was Gods will and so Mary obeyed without question.
Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the kings palace in front of the kings rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favour in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden sceptre which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the sceptre. Then the king said to her, What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it will be given to you (Esther 5:1-3). There are a number of details to remark in comparing Queen Esther and Our Lady.
The first thing to appreciate is
that both Queen Esther and Mary found favour with
God. In the Old Testament, the king loved
Esther more than all the women, and she found favour and kindness
with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal
crown on her head and made her queen
In the New Testament, the Archangel greeted Mary and said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favour with God (Luke 1:30). If a virgin is found the favour of a mere human king and made queen because of this favour, are we to expect any less from God Himself was so part of Mary in her womb - bone of her bones and flesh of her flesh (Cf. Genesis 2:23)?
And what is your request? (Esther 5:1-3). They have no wine (John 2:3). Esther asked if the King would come to the banquet she prepared for him. Marys request was directed toward the bride and groom at the wedding banquet at Cana. Both involved intercession and both requests were answered. In the Book of Esther, the King is very generous with his queen, promising her half of his kingdom (Cf. Esther 7:2). In the Gospel of John, Jesus shows just indeed how much He loves and honours His mother. He demonstrates it quite conclusively in the power of her influence by granting her request EVEN THOUGH his hour has not yet come (John 2:3). The only time Jesus changes His timetable occurred at the request of His Blessed Mother.
Is not God more generous than human kings? Is he not more gracious, loving, and giving than a mere mortal man? Yes He is. In fact, not only is this proper and appropriate view of God appeal to our natural reason, it is also biblically revealed. Christ reminds us that He is the ultimate source of goodness, and gently chastises his listeners for thinking that God is somehow less just or gracious than his fallen children: If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11). If a fallen and evil king honours and venerates his own mother by offering her so much, are we to expect any less from a perfect, loving, and good God?
Queen of Suffering
The contrast of Marys love and obedience to other characters in the bible can also be shown by relating the story of Abraham, his wife, Sarah, and his slave girl, Hagar. After the celebrated birth of Sarahs son, Isaac, Sarah became envious of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. To prevent Ishmael from sharing in the inheritance of Abraham, Sarah persuaded Abraham to drive Hagar and Ishmael away. Rising early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water and, giving them to Hagar, he put the child on her shoulder and sent her away. She wandered off into the wilderness of Beersheba. When the skin of water was finished she abandoned the child under a bush. Then she went and sat down at a distance, about a bowshot away, saying to herself, I cannot see the child die. So she sat at a distance; and the child wailed and wept. (Genesis 21:14-16) This passage from Genesis is both a parallel and foil to the passion of Christ at His crucifixion. The striking similarity in both passages of both mothers and sons being abandoned and rejected by their own people is more than evident, considering both Jesus (Cf. John 1:11) and His Mother (Cf. Luke 2: 34-35) were also rejected. The contrast between Hagar and Mary, however, comes in their respective reactions to the childrens impending death. While the mother of Ishmael chose to abandon her child to avoid the suffering of seeing her child die, Mary did not put down this cross. She stayed at the foot of the cross (Cf. John 19:25), submitting peacefully to the Fathers will and offering her own suffering in a dependent and lesser co-redemption for the salvation of the world.
In the New Covenant, Mary fulfilled the responsibilities asked of her, and in so doing perfectly united her will to the Fathers will just as Abraham had done in the Old Covenant. Recalling the incident when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, Father, he said. Yes, my son, he replied. Look, he said, here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham answered, My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering. Then the two of them went on together. When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son. But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven. Abraham, Abraham, he said. I am here, he replied. Do not raise your hand against the boy, the angel said. Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your son, your only son. (Genesis 22:6-13)
Abrahams reply God himself will provide the lamb and the description of the altar on top of the wood are not-so-veiled references to Jesus sacrifice on the cross, and while God, the Father, did not allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, He did want Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross. Similarly, God did not ask Sarah, Abrahams wife, to be present at the sacrifice of Isaac, but He did want Mary to be present at the crucifixion of Jesus so she could share her Sons suffering more deeply than any other human creature. Mary, like Abraham, accepted the will of God, and understood that her Son would be put to a horrible death, but unlike Abraham, she was not spared the torture of seeing her Sons ignominious and brutal death. As a reward for Abrahams faith, God says, because you have done this, because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you (Genesis 22:16-17). Indeed, how much more blessed is Mary in Gods eyes for having strong faith and for having suffered for His will (Cf. Luke 1:30). How she must have yearned to utter King Davids prophetic words My son, my son [Absalom]! If only I had died instead of you, [Absalom], my son, my son! (2 Samuel 19:1)
A True Queen
What are the qualities of a true queen? There does not seem to be much disagreement on this point either from a biblical or secular point of view. The king comes from royal lineage and chooses his queen; she must be faithful and obedient; and she must be queen not just to her spouse, but to her inherited children as well. All of these qualities are fulfilled in Mary. Her spouse is the Holy Spirit, by whose power was conceived the Second Person of the Trinity. God chose Mary through the annunciation of the Archangel. Mary was faithful and obedient to her King, even witnessing His crucifixion. And finally, she was not only favoured by God to be His Mother, but she also became our spiritual Mother by her Sons departing words: Behold, your Mother! (John 19:27).
Mary is a sign of contradiction in Christianity. In time, however, this woman clothed with the Sun (Cf. Revelation 12:1) will become a sign of unity which will allow the truth of the Gospel to prevail in our secularized and divided world. The enmity between this woman and the serpent (Cf. Genesis 3:15), who is the Father of lies (Cf. John 8:44), will continue. But ultimately, she, united with her seed, the Christ, will crush the serpent so that truth will once again reign on earth. Perhaps one day, all Christians will be able to lift our voices with the Psalmist, O Lord, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid (Psalm 116:16), and indeed proclaim her as the Queen of Heaven, Queen of Truth, and Queen of our hearts!
The Catholic Legate
August 28, 1998
1. Pope John Paul IIs Address to those taking part in the International Congress of Moral Theology; (April 10, 1986), 1: Insegnamenti IX, 1 (1986), 970-971
2. The Splendour of Truth, pt.4
3. Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests, #407
4. The Splendour of Truth, pt.1