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Queen of Heaven

One of the objections Protestants make to the queenship of Mary can be found in Jeremiah 44:15-17, where the worship of the "Queen of Heaven" is condemned. What is actually condemned here is the worship of the pagan goddess Ishtar, and has no connection to Marian devotion. Sacrifices were made to Ishtar, but the Catholic Church does not offer any sacrifices to Mary. An early heresy known as Collyridianism was condemned by the Catholic Church for doing just that.

So is it wrong to use the name "Queen of Heaven" to refer to Mary? Just because the title is used on a pagan deity, does not mean the title cannot be rightly used. The evil Babylonian king was called the morning star (Is. 14:12), but that does not stop Jesus from calling Himself by the same title (Rev. 22:16). Nebuchadnezzar was called the "King of Kings," but so was Jesus (Dan. 2:37; Rev. 17:14).

In the Old Testament, the most important woman in the kingdom was the king's mother, known as the "queen mother". Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon, was honored by him (1 Kgs. 2:19): "Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king's mother, who sat at his right." (See also 1 Kings 15:9-13; 2 Kings 10:13-14, 11:1-3; 2 Chron 22:2-4).

Mary's Queenship is first based on her maternal relationship with Jesus. Here the ancient Hebraic notion of the Queen Mother applies to Mary as Mother of the Messianic King, Jesus Christ. In ancient Israel, the most important woman in the monarchy was generally the queen mother, not the queen. In the southern kingdom of Judah, the kings' wives were apparently never "queens." It was the queen mother, the king's mother, who was honored and who wielded authority as a counselor to the king.

In Psalm 45:9, the queen mother stands at the right hand of the king, arrayed in gold. In Hebrews 1:8-9, the psalm is applied to Jesus as the Messianic King. So by extension, Psalm 45 refers to the queen mother of the Messiah, Mary.

The angel Gabriel said to Mary: "The Lord God will give him the throne of his David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:32-33). Since Mary is the mother of the Messianic King, she is also the queen mother of Christ's kingdom.

Revelation 12 mentions a "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars . . . [she] brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne." (Rev 12:1-6). This is a depiction of Mary in heaven, giving birth to Jesus and wearing a crown–a description of Mary as the queen mother.

Furthermore, the Woman in Revelation 12 is a mother. According to v. 2, "she was with child." Verses 5-6 state that the Woman "gave birth to a son". Verse 17 refers to "the rest of her offspring . . . those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus."

Some Protestants argue with this interpretation and claim that the "Woman" is the Church, or Israel. After all, the Woman cries out in pain giving birth, arguing against the tradition of Mary's painless birth. And some of the Church Fathers interpret the text that way. But John uses polyvalent symbolism. John uses one symbol to refer to many things. For instance, in Revelation, the seven heads of the beast are both seven mountains (Rev. 17:9) and seven kings (Rev. 17:10). As to the "Woman" of Revelation 12, she has four referents: Mary, Eve, the Church, and Israel. At times, the Woman refers to one thing; at times, the Woman refers to other things. The pains of childbirth could refer to Israel, which went through great trauma in giving the world the Messiah. However, the text could refer to Mary and her pain–not the pain in physically giving birth, but the pain in having a child that was destined to suffer a horrible death for the horrible sins of mankind.

It is also proper to refer to Mary as the queen for the simple reason that all Christians share in the Kingship of Christ. Jesus said: "I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me" (Luke 22:29), and Peter said: "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9). And Paul says: "we shall also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:11-12). The Bible often refers to Christians who "rule" (Rev. 2:26, 5:10, 20:6).

Protestants complain that in Christ, we are all kings and queens, so calling Mary the queen singles her out, when it should not. But she is the queen of heaven in a special sense, by being the queen mother. She should be singled out, just like Jesus should be singled out by being called the "King of Kings."

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