A long-standing Christian liturgical practice, which, in fact, predates Christianity and which lasted well into the 20th century, was to prolong the celebration of the greater festivals for a full week, what was called an octave (eight days). Some relics of that still remain in the calendar. Thus, for example, today’s feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes, not accidentally, exactly one week after the celebration of her Assumption. As we all know, the fifth and final glorious mystery of the Rosary is the Crowning of Mary, which follows chronologically and conceptually the fourth glorious mystery, the Assumption. So there is a certain liturgical logic at work here.
Although the Assumption traditionally had an octave, today’s particular feast of Mary as Queen dates back only to the 1950s and was originally celebrated in May. It is intended to present Mary in the full context of her present heavenly glory as the Mother of God who is also thereby Mother of the Church.
That heavenly glory and Mary’s ongoing relationship as Queen with the rest of the Church is illustrated in the beautiful, elaborate mural by the great American artist William Laurel Harris (1870-1924), on the upper wall above the door to the sacristy, right behind the altar of Our Lady. (Most of you can’t see it from where you are sitting right now, but when you get the chance you should stop and take a look.) The mural portrays Christ crowning his Mother, while above the Father and the Holy Spirit are symbolically represented. Grouped around the principal figures are a collection of saints – among them, Saints Casimir, Clare, Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Luke, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Mary Magdalene, Augustine of Hippo, Monica, Anthony of Padua, Bernard of Clairvaux, Philip Neri, Alphonso’s Liguori, and John of the Cross.
What a great image of the Communion of Saints! What a glorious reminder of how we are all connected and brought together in the kingdom of the Risen Christ, where Mary continues to intercede on our behalf!
Homily, Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, August 22, 2023.
Photo: The Crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mural by Willian Lauren Harris, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, NY.