There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. " But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. " Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God. " Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. " Then the angel departed from her.
The Catholic church has a long tradition of honouring Mary alongside Jesus, her son. As early as the fourth century Saint Ephrem used the term "Queen" in praise of Mary, and later church usage continues applying this title to her. Marian Hymns of the 11th to 13th centuries have phrases like "Hail, Holy Queen" and "Hail, Queen of Heaven." The fifth decade of the rosary as well as numerous invocations in the litany of Loreto celebrate her queenship. The bishops at Vatican II urged us to persevere in prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of mankind. "Let them implore her that as she helped the beginnings of the Church by her prayers she may now, exalted above all the saints and angels in heaven, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints." (Constitution on the Church, 69).
When Pius XII proclaimed this feast in 1954 he pointed out that Mary deserves the title "Queen" as the Mother of God, for three reasons:
1. her close association with Jesus' redemptive work;
2. her preeminent perfection of holiness and
3. her intercessory power on our behalf.
The themes for the feast are drawn from Holy Scripture, when the angel announced that Mary's Son would receive the throne of David and would rule forever . At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary "mother of my Lord." In her whole life, Mary was closely associated with Jesus, so that in popular devotion her queenship is a share in his kingship. We may note how in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in court life, as when Batsheba secured the kingship for her son, Solomon.
The feast is linked to that of the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast. As Jesus was to be king of all creation, Mary, in faithful dependence on Jesus, was to be its queen. As Jesus was king by serving his Father and by compassion to others, so is Mary a queen as the handmaid of the Lord and the mother of mercy.
During the Middle Ages Mary was venerated as Queen of angels and saints. Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Queenship of Mary as a feast of the universal church at the close of the Marian Year of 1955. The feast is placed on this date, August 22, to stress its connection with the feast of the Assumption, exactly a week earlier. Today's Gospel tells us that if Mary now reigns with her Son in heaven, it is because she gave herself over to God's purpose for her earthly life, as did Jesus her Son. There are many call stories in the gospels and in the bible as a whole. Today's gospel is about the call of Mary. According to the passage, Mary displayed a whole range of responses to God's approach to her. Initially, she was "deeply disturbed," and then she questioned, "How can this come about?" It was only after an interior journey that she finally surrendered to what God was asking of her, "let what you have said be done to me." The reading suggests that Mary's response came at the end of a period of struggle. There will always be an element of struggle in our own dealings with the Lord, in our own efforts to respond to the Lord's call. Mary's response of total surrender to God's purpose for her life did not come easy to her and does not come easy to us. However, in our struggle to live in harmony with God's purpose for our lives, we all have the assurance of Gabriel's words to Mary, "Nothing is impossible to God." What may seem impossible to us is always possible with God's help. We can all come to make our own the words of Saint Paul, "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain" (1 Cor 15:10). [MH]