Hail Queen, Mother of Mercy
By St Alphonsus Liguori | 31 May 2023
For the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (31 May), we present the following article, taken from the opening chapter of St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori’s great Marian work, The Glories of Mary.
The Holy Church justly honours the great Virgin Mary, and would have her honoured by all men with the glorious title of queen, because she has been elevated to the dignity of mother of the King of kings. “If the Son is king,” says St Athanasius, “his mother must necessarily be considered and entitled queen.” “From the moment that Mary consented,” adds St Bernardine of Sienna, “to become the mother of the Eternal Word, she merited the title of queen of the world and all creatures.” “If the flesh of Mary,” says St Arnold, abbot, “was the flesh of Jesus, how can the mother be separated from the Son in his kingdom?” Hence it follows that the regal glory must not only be considered as common to the mother and the Son, but even the same.
If Jesus is the king of the whole world, Mary is also queen of the whole world. “If therefore,” says St Bernardine of Sienna, “all creatures who serve God ought also to serve Mary; for all angels and men, and all things that are in heaven and on earth being subject to the dominion of God, are also subject to the dominion of the glorious Virgin.” Hence Guerric, abbot, thus addresses the divine mother: “Continue, Mary, continue in security to reign; dispose, according to thy will, of everything belonging to thy Son, for thou, being mother and spouse of the King of the world, the kingdom and power over all creatures is due to thee as queen.”
Mary, then, is queen; but let all learn for their consolation that she is a mild and merciful queen, desiring the good of us poor sinners. Hence the holy Church bids us salute her in this prayer, and names her the Queen of Mercy. “The very name of queen signifies,” as blessed Albertus Magnus remarks, “compassion, and provision for the poor; differing in this from the title of empress, which signifies severity and rigour.” “The greatness of kings and queens consists in comforting the wretched,” as Seneca says. So that whereas tyrants, in reigning, have only their own advantage in view, kings should have for their object the good of their subjects. Therefore at the consecration of kings their heads are anointed with oil, which is the symbol of mercy, to denote that they, in reigning, should above all things cherish thoughts of kindness and beneficence towards their subjects.
Kings should then principally occupy themselves with works of mercy, but not to the neglect of the exercise of justice towards the guilty, when it is required. Not so Mary, who, although queen, is not queen of justice, intent upon the punishment of the guilty, but queen of mercy, solely intent upon compassion and pardon for sinners. Accordingly, the Church requires us explicitly to call her queen of mercy. The High Chancellor of Paris, John Gerson, meditating on the words of David, “These two things have I heard, that power belongeth to God, and mercy to thee, O Lord,” says, that the kingdom of God consisting of justice and mercy, the Lord has divided it: he has reserved the kingdom of justice for himself, and he has granted the kingdom of mercy to Mary, ordaining that all the mercies which are dispensed to men should pass through the hands of Mary, and should be bestowed according to her good pleasure. St Thomas confirms this in his preface to the Canonical Epistles, saying that the holy Virgin, when she conceived the divine Word in her womb, and brought him forth, obtained the half of the kingdom of God by becoming queen of mercy, Jesus Christ remaining king of justice.
The eternal Father constituted Jesus Christ king of justice, and therefore made him the universal judge of the world; hence the prophet sang, “Give to the king thy judgment, Oh God; and to the king’s son thy justice!” Here a learned interpreter takes up the subject, and says, “Oh Lord, thou hast given to thy Son thy justice, because thou hast given to the mother of the king thy mercy.” And St Bonaventure happily varies the passage above quoted by saying, “Give to the king thy judgment, Oh God, and to his mother thy mercy.” Ernest, Archbishop of Prague, also says, that the eternal Father has given to the Son the office of judging and punishing, and to the mother the office of compassionating and relieving the wretched. Therefore the Prophet David predicted that God Himself, if I may thus express it, would consecrate Mary queen of mercy … as St Bonaventure says, “Oh Mary, so full of the unction of mercy and the oil of pity, that God has anointed thee with the oil of gladness!”
And how well does blessed Albertus Magnus here apply the history of Queen Esther, who was indeed a type of Our Queen Mary! We read in the fourth chapter of the Book of Esther, that in the reign of King Assuerus, there went forth, throughout his kingdom, a decree commanding the death of all the Jews. Then Mardochai, who was one of the condemned, committed their cause to Esther, that she might intercede with the king to obtain the revocation of the sentence. At first Esther refused to take upon herself this office, fearing that it would excite the anger of the king more. But Mardochai rebuked her, and bade her remember that she must not think of saving herself alone, as the Lord had placed her upon the throne to obtain salvation for all the Jews: “Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.” Thus said Mardochai to Queen Esther, and thus might we poor sinners say to our Queen Mary, if she were ever reluctant to intercede with God for our deliverance from the just punishment of our sins:
“Think not that thou mayest save thy life only, because thou art in the king’s house, more than all men. Think not, oh Lady, that God has exalted thee to be queen of the world, only to secure thy own welfare; but also that thou, being so greatly elevated, mayest the more compassionate and the better relieve us miserable sinners.”
Assuerus, when he saw Esther before him, affectionately inquired of her what she had come to ask of him: “What is thy petition?” Then the queen answered, “If I have found favour in thy sight, oh king, give me my people for which I request.” If Assuerus heard her, and immediately ordered the sentence to be revoked. Now, if Assuerus granted to Esther, because he loved her, the salvation of the Jews, will not God graciously listen to Mary, in his boundless love for her, when she prays to him for those poor sinners who recommend themselves to her and says to him, “If I have found favour in thy sight, oh King, my King and my God, if I have ever found favour with Thee (and well does the divine mother know herself to be the blessed, the fortunate, the only one of the children of men who found the grace lost by man; she knows herself to be the beloved of her Lord, more be loved than all the saints and angels united), give me my people for which I request: if thou lovest me, she says to him, give me, oh my Lord, these sinners in whose behalf I entreat Thee. Is it possible that God will not graciously hear her? Is there anyone who does not know the power of Mary’s prayers with God? “The law of clemency is on her tongue.” Every prayer of hers is as a law established by our Lord, that mercy shall be exercised towards those for whom Mary intercedes. St Bernard asks, “Why does the Church name Mary Queen of Mercy,” and answers, “Because we believe that she opens the depths of the mercy of God, to whom she will, when she will, and as she will; so that not even the vilest sinner is lost, if Mary protects him.”