The month of May is dedicated to Our Lady. Many of you may have grown up praying the Angelus at 6:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm. Traditionally church bells peel out at these times to remind the faithful of the Annunciation of Mary and subsequent Incarnation of Christ. Pope St. Paul VI wrote that the Angelus “reminds us of the Paschal Mystery, in which recalling the Incarnation of the Son of God we pray that we may be led through his passion and cross to the glory of his resurrection.”
Our own church bell rings for the Angelus as well, although at 7:00am rather than 6:00am (lest we awaken the neighbors too early). In the Vatican, since the time of Pope St. John XXIII, the popes have appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace on Sundays to give the weekly “Angelus Address” and to pray the Angelus and bless the crowds gathered. However, during the Easter Season, the Angelus is replaced by the Regina Caeli, known in English as “Queen of Heaven.” It’s a fitting title for our parish!
The Regina Caeli is prayed every night after Night Prayer (known as Compline). Each liturgical season has its assigned Marian anthem (for example, the “Hail, Holy Queen” is prayed during Ordinary Time). In Easter, it’s the Regina Caeli. You’re probably familiar with the words: Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia. The Son you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as he said, alleluia. Pray to God for us, alleluia.
Why is Mary considered the Queen of Heaven? The Venerable Pope Pius XII taught that Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest: through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular choice of the Father. Mary is called Queen of Heaven because her son, Jesus Christ, is the king of Israel and the heavenly king of the universe; indeed, the Davidic tradition of Israel recognized the mother of the king as the queen mother of Israel.
Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary through his 1954 encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam (‘To The Queen of Heaven’). Pope Pius XII gives us a commission: “Let all, therefore, try to approach with greater trust the throne of grace and mercy of our Queen and Mother, and beg for strength in adversity, light in darkness, consolation in sorrow; above all let them strive to free themselves from the slavery of sin and offer an unceasing homage, filled with filial loyalty, to their Queenly Mother. May Mary’s name be held in highest reverence, a name sweeter than honey and more precious than jewels. All, according to their state, should strive to bring alive the wondrous virtues of our heavenly Queen and most loving Mother through constant effort of mind and manner.”