The Queenship of Mary

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 1219474532|%B %d

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Queenship of Mary. Its placement on August 22 makes it the completion of the octave following the Feast of the Assumption (aka the Dormition) on Aug 15.

Untangling the web of Marian feasts is something of a chore. This particular feast was instituted in 1954 by Pius XII, and originally occupied a space on the calender at the last day of May (the Marian month). August 22 used to be the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the BVM, but that was moved, reasonably enough, to sit next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Pius 12 was also the Pope who, by action of Papal Infallibility, ensconced the Assumption as Catholic doctrine.

An Ethiopian Icon of the Coronation of Mary.
An Ethiopian Icon of the Coronation of Mary.

I don't have a problem with Marian piety. It is, at heart, a question of the involvement of the feminine and the maternal in the divine drama of salvation. This is much easier to do through Mariological rubrics than other means. Mariology arose from our Christian ancestors gentle and reverent fantasias on themes of Scripture and Tradition. Involving the feminine in God through other theologizing would quickly verge on the heretical.

Even still, I am not sure that our Marian devotions should be organized and dictated by a central source.

The problem is apparent already in how many times this feast has moved. Rome rightly wants to organize the calender in ways that will sanctify the time of the faithful. But that takes stability, and a sense of inter-involvement of all the little pieces in the broad story of Salvation.

The East worked out their Marian devotion quite well, without having to forge any doctrines binding on all believers. They have essentially four Marian feasts in the Orthodox year: the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sept 8), the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple (Nov. 21), The Annunciation (Mar. 25), and the Dormition (Aug. 15). Along with these, there are several smaller Marian feasts, and local celebrations of the Theotokos. The most famous of these is the Protection of the Mother of God (Oct. 1), which commemorates a tenth-century vision of the Virgin.

Thus, Mary's feasts form a sort of "lunar cycle" reflecting the glory of her Son's Major Feasts, which are the analogous "solar cycle." Other feasts are left to local piety.

In the Catholic world, Marian devotion caught on later, and less uniformly. Ultimately, it was the criticism of Protestants that solidified the importance of Mary in Catholic theology. Perhaps, then, institutionalizing Marian observance has been a legitimate central action for the Roman Catholic Church.

But if the decision is going to be made unilaterally, they should make their decision and get on with it. Of course, I have a hard enough time managing my own calendar. Establishing a calender for the whole church, and then getting people to pay attention to it! …now there's a chore.

image credit:

More about the Image: Ethiopian Orthodoxy is a separate tradition from either Eastern, or Western Christianity. The existence of such an icon is particularly fascinating, as it points to a more or less independent Marian tradition in the Ethiopian Church.

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