Saturday, April 28, 2007
Regina Angelorum - Queen of Angels?
In my newspaper here in the northwoods, there was an article for the "Marian Day of Reflection," set for May 17. In the Green Bay Diocese their special emphasis will be on the theme "Regina Angelorum - Queen of Angels." I have to admit that before this I had not heard this title for Mary. Although, it does sound similar to the "Queen of Heaven" title I have heard.
It has been my effort over the years to understand and give fair treatment to Catholic doctrine, even when I disagree with it. As I have stated before, Catholic doctrine is not always accurately critiqued by Protestants.
Nevertheless, titles for Mary such as the above make it hard for me not to conclude that Catholic doctrine elevates this blessed mother of our Lord to heights never envisioned by sacred scripture.
To better understand this teaching I found an article entitled "Mary - Regina Angelorum" and surveyed their reasoning. The article was arranged under three headings: I. Mary, Queen of Angels and Mistress of Devils (Note: don't misunderstand that last part! There's nothing demonic here!), II. Mary: Queen of Angels in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, and III. Mary and the Distribution of Grace. The paper is provided by the organization called "Opus Sanctorum Angelorum" (Work of the Angels), and is an order that appears to have the approval of the church. A statement of their order can be found here.
What initially struck me was the confusion of roles between Mary and Michael. Up to this point I had always understood Michael as "captain" of the Lord's angelic armies. He is even pictured in Christian art with a sword and shield with the devil beneath his feet. Now Mary is the "General" over Michael? It is true that the angelic order does serve those who "are going to inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14). That having been said, however, it is a large step to now conclude that a human such as Mary is now an virtual "commander" of the angelic hosts. This is an honor that ultimately goes to God himself, and by extension to Michael in the order he has provided.
Still, that point aside, what troubles me is the justification for the teachings that elevate Mary to such positions that seem out of proportion to what we read in Holy Scripture. Here Mary is a humble handmaiden of the Lord, admitting to her need for a savior in her beautiful Magnificat. She faithfully assumes her role as mother of our Lord, yet steps back once his ministry begins and informs others to serve him. Nowhere does Christ elevate her beyond her vocation. In fact, at the foot of the cross he establishes her again in this role as mother to John.
In the article referenced above I found that so-called scriptural justification for Mary's elevation was based, from my Lutheran perspective, more on inference than from clear indication. It was tradition, not scripture, that provided the ultimate form this teaching takes.
In a day when Catholics are trying hard to appear more scriptural and more Christian to the Protestant community, such teachings remain large stumbling blocks. I will be the first to say that much hyperbole has stood in the way of effective dialogue. No, I do not believe that Mary is the Catholic Church's new savior. However, the place she is accorded along side of her Son makes her appear far more equal than can be justified, and takes away from the ultimate glory that is Christ's alone. It is lines such as this that confound a Lutheran:
"However, as St. Maximillian Kolbe stresses, "from the moment of Mary’s immaculate entry into human existence, she was in profound union with the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit." In fact, her union with the Third Person of the Trinity was so intimate that she became, in effect, the "Incarnation of the Holy Spirit." That is to say she became the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to distribute all the graces destined by God the Father for all mankind" (From the above referenced article.)
Or statements also such as this:
"Mary has been called the mediator with the Mediator. Christ is the Mediator between us and God the Father, and Mary is the mediator between Christ and us. Now we can take this scheme one step further and say that our guardian angel acts, or can act if we ask him, like a mediator for us with Mary, the Mediatrix of all Graces."
To be fair I have taken only one source and this could be corrected by Catholics far more conversant with official dogma. Yet, how does the 'holy see' view such teachings? Pope John Paul II was very much a supporter of Mary and the teachings surrounding her exalted roles. According to information about the order mentioned above, it seems that the official church, while curtailing public proclamation of some of thier teachings, is in agreement with what they do proclaim, such as the statements quoted agove. It would be interesting to study this further.
For now I must say that "Queen of Angels" is much too 'over the top' for my theological tastes.
[Note: the picture above is "Regina Angelorum" by the Parisian artist William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1900.]