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.]


Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Don,
I am a Catholic Priest and enjoy your blog.
Sometimes popular piety is seen by non-Catholics as dogma.
Christ is the only mediator between God and man.
The Catholic belief is that all of us are small "m" mediators in the one Mediator, Jesus Our Lord.
St. Paul says that we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ(Col:24).His sufferings were all-sufficient for our redemtption.
All of us are called to join our personal sufferings to the one saving sacrifice of Calvary.
We are called to cooperate and share in the salvific work of Christ so as to apply the fruits of His redemption to men.
We are members of His body by Baptism and we pray for one another, mediate through Christ for each other's needs.
The Blessed Mary is seen as the choir director of all of our prayers and intercession to Christ.
She is Blessed and holy and since she is the Virgin who gave birth to God in the flesh, she holds a place of highest honor of all human persons.
If Jesus is our brother, Mary is our spiritual Mother.
Even as we on earth pray (intercede) for one another, we ask the Mother of God and all of God's friends in heaven, the saints, to pray with us and for us to God. We are a family united in heaven and earth surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).
In their love for Mary as our spiritual Mother, Catholics give her many pious titles showing their love for their Mother.
She who gave birth to the Creator is higher than all the angels and highly honored by them as their queen.
Mary's most important title is Mother of God.Love for Mary is part of the "Catholic soul." It is love for our Mother. Orthodox Christians are the same.
I have great respect for the Lutheran Church and it's emphasis on clear teaching.
We have much more in common that with most Protestants including Episcopalians who lack clear teaching.
The most important doctrine is that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, died on Calvary for my sins and rose, in the flesh, from the tomb. He alone is my Lord and Saviour and to Him only I entrust my eternal salvation.
We are saved by grace, through faith, manifested by charity.
It is a gift from God.
God bless you, Pastor, and may Mary intercede with all the church for all of us.
Fr. Martin Gerber
Orlando, Fl

D. Engebretson said...

Dear Father Gerber,
Thank you for your comments on the article. Being new to the large world of the 'blogosphere,' I am continually amazed by the diverse audience one can have in writing a blog. I would not have realized that a Catholic priest was actually reading these entries.

You are right that Lutherans and Catholics have much more in common than either of our traditions do with the greater Protestant community, or with the Episcopanlians. Lutherans, somewhat unique among those of the Reformation era churches, still honor the form of the divine service and traditional liturgy along with the rich symbolism in church architecture and vestments (with increased exceptions, of course, among the more modern 'chruch growth' proponents.) In the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod we have also been known internationally for a firm commitment to the Truth and a clear proclamation of it. We are pleased that we have a common cause with the Roman church in the defense of the unborn and in the ongoing debate regarding the service of women in the ministry.

More than other Protestants Lutherans have been far more willingn to honor the saints and recognize their intercesion on our behalf. These commitments are in our official confessions. However, we do have a difference with Rome when it comes to the saints, and while we recognize their role to intercede on our behalf as part of the "communion of saints," we do not promote praying to them.

I am encouraged by your confession of Christ as "the only mediator between God and man." I know that the greater emphasis on Mary by Roman Catholics makes Protestants tend to conclude that Catholics do not believe that Christ is the only true savior of mankind.

Mary has probably not received the attention among Lutherans that she should, nor that she had at the time of the Reformation. Part of this is no doubt due to an anti-Catholic reaction over the years and a misunderstanding of the common points in our traditions. We are not opposed to her title as "Mother of God," or to honoring her as "blessed among women," as the Scriptures themselves attest. It is her role beyong prayer that marks our differences, I beleive. References to her as "co-redemptrix" and "queen of heaven," as mentioned in the article, are difficult for Lutherans to embrace due to what they imply in this more expanded role and understanding of Mary.

At any rate, thank you again for your comments, and thank you for taking the time to read this blog and intelligently reflect on my thoughts.

The Lord be with you,
Pastor Engebretson

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Don,
Thanks for your very thoughtful response to my comments.I learn a lot from other faiths. We sometimes look at things from different eyes.
You're right re our different views about prayer to Mary.
Perhaps one of the problems is that Rome uses Latin words which have different meanings in English.
She will use the Latin for worship which means 3 things to informed Catholics. Latria is adoration...only for God.
Dulia is veneration of saints.
Hyperdulia is the highest veneration reserved for Mary.
She may never be adored. To do so would be to break the 1st commandment.
We see the Church as a mystical body including the baptized on earth and the saved in heaven.
Our "prayer to the saints" is no different than asking a member of our congregation to pray for us. They are our heavenly congregation.
Prayer here simply means asking for them to join us in prayer kind of like a prayer group.
As for Marian titles, many are simply pious statements of love for our mother Mary. If a poorly catechized Catholic says,"I adore the Blessed Mother," they do not mean in the theological sense reserved for God. They also say they "adore" their grandchildren. Certainly is is only a human expression, not a theological statement.Mary is never an end in herself; she only leads us to Jesus. She says, "do whatever He tells you." Those are a Christian's marching orders.
Anyway, let us pray for one another on our journey to be someday fully united with our Jesus in heaven.
Fr. Martin Gerber

D. Engebretson said...

Dear Father Gerber,
Thank you for the clarification regarding the different Latin terms for honor paid to God and the saints. I had read this before, but had not thought about it in commenting on this issue. I suspect that many non-Catholics are unaware of the differences and wrongly conclude that Catholic theology places 'adoration' and 'veneration' in the same category, suspecting that Mary is thus placed on equal footing with Jesus. I will have to give more thought to all of this. Thank you for the information!
Pr. Engebretson

Christine said...

Dear Father Gerber,

Having both Catholic and Lutheran relatives I couldn't agree with you more that Mary sometimes doesn't receive the honor she should among other Christian bodies, since she was and always will be the Mother of God. If we can name churches for the apostles and martyrs we should be far along enough now to also name them after Saint Mary, whose fiat made the incarnation possible.

I fully understand the Roman Catholic teachings on Mary and have no doubt whatsoever that the blessed in heaven continue to pray for the Church militant as part of that "great cloud of witnesses."

Where I do come to a halt, though, is the idea of praying to the saints. Yes, they now inhabit eternity outside of space and time but they are and still remain created beings, creatures of God. Only God is omniscient. He does not share that with any created being. For any saint in heaven to be able to simultaneously hear the prayers of those still on earth seems to confuse the creature with the Creator. Even in heaven we are not divine.

This is, of course, also related to the Catholic teaching on the Mass as the renewal, or representation of the sacrifice of Calvary, which is not part of Lutheran teaching.

In my humble opinion.

318@NICE said...

Just a thought, St. John speaks this way in 1 John, that when we see him we will be like him. Not taking away the creature/Creator distinction, but a change, Our Lord himself said we would be like the angels in Matthew. There was even a great change with the body of Christ after his Resurrection as well.
Lutherans as well as Catholics must be careful to never fall into the rationalistic, philosophy of the heretic John Calvin. he continued to look as we are now and say that is how they are in heaven as well.


Christine said...

Dave, with all due respect your are confusing substance with location. Jesus also said that even the angels in heaven would not know when he would return at the parousia.

Yes, we will be like Jesus but only Jesus will be truly divine and human in eternity. Our bodies will be glorified but we are still, as are the angels, created beings.

I was received into the Catholic Church when I married into a Catholic family but have recently returned to my LCMS roots. I am very well informed as to the teachings of both bodies. I also acknowledge that many of the Catholic laity do not understand the fine distinctions between latria, dulia and hyperdulia and will simply (and understandably) express their devotion to Mary in their own terms.

I am also well aware of the difference in Lutheran and Calvinist/Reformed theology.

Christine said...

As a footnote, Dave, if you were addressing the issue that Calvin could not conceive of how Christ could be present sacramentally in Holy Communion while still located" in heaven then yes indeed, that is not shared by Lutherans who as catholics (small "c") acknowledge the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar.

But it seems to me that is an entirely different matter than the Communion of Saints.

318@NICE said...

Okay then, show me from Scripture where the Saints cannot hear our prayers. We do know from the book of Revelation that they do pray for us, but where does it say that they "can't" hear our prayers.

I know you are looking at all the impossibilities here on earth, but where in Scripture?
Also, with the angels, just because they don't know when the Second Coming will take place does not mean that they cannot hear our prayers as well. And Jesus himself said he did not know that day or hour either.So, he can't hear our prayers?
And with Calvinism, my argument is valid. You can't deny something somewhere and keep it elsewhere. that was my point. And its not just in the Eucharist that Calvin does this, he does it with justification, Baptism, the Church, etc. It was not just one thing.
But, I'm not a Lutheran and I can understand why Lutherans may not believe in praying to saints.
However, I only speak as a Catholic on the matter.
Just something to think about.

Christine said...

Dave -- as a Catholic, your question is perfectly reasonable.

As a Lutheran, the question is not "show me from scripture where they can't hear our prayers" but "show me from scripture where they CAN."

As any well informed Catholic knows (and I am assuming you are one), no Catholic is absolutely required to ask the intercession of the saints or believe in Church approved apparitions. Knowing Catholicism as I do from first hand experience (and having one Catholic parent as well) I understand the logic from which Catholic doctrine vis a vis the saints derives.

The Nicene Creed defines our catholicity as Lutherans and as Catholics.

I understand your position as a Catholic.

But as a Lutheran it is one that I don't share. For me Christ, who at his ascension said all power in heaven and earth had been given to Him, is sufficient.

318@NICE said...

Thanks for your comments. One thing to think about your statment, "Show me from Scripture where you CAN."
I know that Lutherans baptize infants (and 'Thanks be to God' - stealing a line from Lutheran liturgy - they do), but where in Scripture does it say you CAN?
There are Scriptures that may alude to it, but nothing clearly states that you can. You know that Christ says to bring the little children to him, but that is not really talking about Baptism. But it was always the Apostolic Tradition from the beginning, and that's why the Church always baptized infants for salvation. This Apostolic Tradition Luther kept and rightly so.
But because I'm a Catholic and don't hold to Solo Scripture, I think that many of the things Lutherans do and believe are right because they come from the ancient Church and Apostolic Succession and that Scripture is not to be used like a Text book but an affirmation of the Apostolic Tradition.
And as you probably know that Scripture alone does not work. Everyone has a Tradition that they follow which interprets the Scriptures for them. For example the Presbyterians and Reform use the writings of Calvin and the Westminster Confession of faith; Lutherans use the writings of Martin Luther and the other Martin, and the book of Concord as their final say in matters of doctrine as well.
And as we all know in the United States there is no unity in Christianity in Scripture Alone because everybody sees each verse differently.
However, I see traditional Lutherans as more Catholic than Protestant like Baptist or Reformed.
So, I think Catholics and Lutherans have more in common than with those others.

Christine said...

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your response. Of course, Lutherans don't hesitate to expound on the Bible via their Confessional documents which, along with their sacramental theology, do indeed set them apart from evangelical Protestants. You are quite correct that Lutherans and Catholics have much in common. I certainly consider myself an evangelical catholic, with the best of both worlds.

The baptism of infants (which Lutherans of course do not tie in to the Scripture passage where Christ says "let the children come to me") is actually based more on the sacramental regeneration that Lutherans believe baptism to be rather than an "ordinance" or "decision for Christ" that those Protestants that only practice adult baptism embrace, and not strictly on scriptural grounds.

Because we believe that Baptism is the work of the Holy Spirit we do not hesitate to bring children to Baptism as was, of course, the practice of the church from early times.

I realize that there is "tradition" and "Tradition", but even these have not been fully successful in achieving Christian unity.

The Orthodox, as we all know, accept neither papal jurisdiction, the Immaculate Conception, the Roman Catholic position on divorce nor Eucharistic adoration as practiced in the western church, among other things, although I fully acknowledge that the schism was based on cultural and other factors as well as theological ones.

D. Engebretson said...

I think that this post has set a record for comments posted on Northwoods Seelsorger :) I can't remember when I received more than 3-5 at most!

I just wanted to jump in an add a brief point re: Baptism and the scriptural grounds of the sacrament.

It is true that there is not an explict statement in scripture that says "Go and baptize infants." However, the theological rationale for baptizing infants is essensially the same as that for adults, and this rationale is clearly stated. As our catechism lays it out, we baptize infants because they are sinners in need of forgiveness and salvation, they are included in the "all nations" directive of Matthew 28, and the simple fact that they can have true faith (which is deduced clearly from teh statements of about children uttered by Jesus when he welcomed them to himself.)

When Luther specifically defends the practice of infant baptism in his Large Catechism, he does not appeal to tradition as the basis of the argument, even though he respected it in so far as it was in line with scripture. Instead he rests his argument on what God does in Baptism and the command from scripture to do so.

Dave writes:
"...but where in Scripture does it say you CAN?
There are Scriptures that may alude to it, but nothing clearly states that you can. You know that Christ says to bring the little children to him, but that is not really talking about Baptism. But it was always the Apostolic Tradition from the beginning, and that's why the Church always baptized infants for salvation. This Apostolic Tradition Luther kept and rightly so."

The theological argument in favor of the baptism of infants (from the Lutheran point of view) is more than allusion, but rather a scrptureal deduction based on the application of scriptural commands and promises that apply to all, not some. Thus, we baptize all races even though we are not told to. We don't need to be told. They are part of all nations to begin with.

Apostolic Tradition is a wonderful testimony or witness to the truth of scripture in this case. For if the scriptures had forbidden the baptism of infants or spoken against it in some way, why would the Early Church continue it, as is evident as far back as Tertullian and before? Or put another way, if it is wrong then why did Jesus and apostles set the record straight right from the beginning? So as Lutherans we value the tradition, but it is not the primary or foundational reason for bringing infants to the font.

BTW, I have addressed some of the issues and the theological rationale re: baptism in a post from March 12, entitled "The Importance and Necessity of Baptism."

Christine said...

Instead he rests his argument on what God does in Baptism and the command from scripture to do so.

Indeed, Pastor, the command in Scripture to "Go and baptize all nations" as well as the necessity of being born of water and the Spirit are very foundational to Lutheran teaching.

We Lutherans certainly are rooted in the Apostolic and post-Apostolic history of the Church but differ with some of the developments after the 4th century, and I'm not sure they can ever be completely resolved.

And yes, it is edifying to be able to exchange views on this and other forums. One of the good things about the worldwideweb.