Reflecting on this question has taken me down memory lane as far as my memory can carry me to the beginnings of my journey here on earth which has also, like that of the people of Israel, been my journey of faith, as part of the family of God. I belong to a home that is largely Catholic and so was introduced to the faith by my parents, my grandparents, especially my grandma whose devotion impressed upon me a sense of the divine, as well as many others. Being introduced to the faith meant that from a very young age I was introduced to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mother of the Church Family and Mother of us all.
At this point I must say I was born on the 16th of July, the heart of July, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
I still have quite a number of substantial memories of my childhood that remind me of how my relationship with Mothe started to grow. I remember when I had to change schools to a Catholic nursery and primary school after I was told that I could not wear my medal in school because it was not allowed. It was that important to my parents that I schooled in an environment that accepted and helped shape my Catholic faith. I entered Madonna Nursery and Primary School which is run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary afterwards. I also remember how before examinations in primary school, after I had read what I could, as my mum drove me to school I would clasp my white coloured rosary in my hands in the car and gently said it because somehow in that moment of anxiety and tension I found promise and comfort in the Rosary. And then I would ace my examinations coming first position in most of them. This was still as a child who knew nothing of the high falloting aspects of exegesis and theology.
One memory however which impressed upon me a lively faith while growing up was an experience with a helper of ours at home who was a member of an occultic group. Her confessions finally made me realise what a great gift and what great power lay in Devotion to our Lady that as young as I was (about 7years of age) I would call the Miraculous Medal; The Medal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, my grandmother’s best gift. In her confessions, our helper had said that this medal had shielded me from her many attacks and she couldn’t fulfil her mission to co-opt me into the occult either as sacrifice or whatever it was because I was being watched over. It was after her confessions that the childhood dreams and night terrors I had had began to make so much sense to me, for many nights I wrestled with supernatural presences so much so that I was afraid to go to bed at certain times. In these dreams, as I remember them vividly, I always wrestled with the Devil who came after me in many forms, on one such occasion, the occasion of the final battle, my siblings and I were sitting close to our Lady, who assured us that God is mightier that the Devil and that in this battle he will conquer and surely he did.
I wore the Miraculous medal for many years after that incident. You may wonder why I am particular about our Lady being a stronghold for me and being my banner as these battles raged in my childhood. Studying scripture over the years I have come to realise a very important truth. In Revelations 12 we hear of St. John’s vision of the heavens opening and a sign appearing of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars, this glorious woman painted in Queenship imagery was to give birth to a Son who would rule the nations with a rod of Iron. Traditionally the Christian Church has understood this vision to primarily point to Jesus Christ, the subject of the book of revelations, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, born of a Virgin. (Galatians 4:4). If this is so then this woman painted in Queenship imagery must be Mary, his mother. This same Mary as I got to realise with more reflections on the passage some years ago is the woman who battled with the dragon, some verses later- recalling the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 commonly referred to as the Protoevangelium (First Gospel) viz: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers”. It appeared to me that this prophecy of enmity and battle between the serpent and the woman was mystically fulfilled in the Apocalyptic Vision of St. John. But not only that, this same woman, after battling with the dragon was described as Mother of all those who keep God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. For he said, “And the dragon was angry with the woman and went to wrestle with her offsprings, those who keep the commandments of God and b have the testimony of Jesus’s Christ.” (Rev. 12:17). Therefore as long as one falls into the category of those who keep the commandments of God and bear witness to Jesus’s Christ, she is your mother. But of course, on Calvary as our Lord hung on the wood of the cross offering up the one living and eternal sacrifice for sin that ushered in a New covenant bond, a new family bond that United heaven and earth and hence his family and ours, he looked down towards John his beloved disciple and said “Behold your Mother” and looking to his Mother he said to her “Behold your Son”. That momentary ritual thus signified the new family of God, the new Kahal of God made up of Divino-humans brought about through the cooperation of Mary and the the Divine substance of the Holy Spirit, “and the babe which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35). But in that same passage the Lord said to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David”. (Luke 1:31-32). And so at that moment, a parallel, a pattern was drawn between the throne of David and that of Christ as St. Luke relates to us-it was the same throne our Jesus would occupy.
And what about the Davidic Kingdom and throne is significant? The position of the Queen Mother of Israel, also known as the Gebirah. The Gebirah was Mother of the King, especially from the first Gebirah, Bathsheba who was Solomon’s Mother. 1 kings 2:19 paints a beautiful ritual of the enthronment the Mother of the king with her throne by his right. (Cf. Psalm 44/45:10- On your right stands the Queen in Gold of Ophir): “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I am making one small request of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Ask, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”…(1 Kings 2:19-20). Ask anything, I will not refuse you, this drama repeated itself at the wedding at Cana, where Our Lady asked Our Lord for wine, and he could not refuse her, thereby making her the one who caused the first Miracle of our Lord. The Queen Mother held a peculiar place as intercessor, special adviser to the King, ruler of the kingdom in the King’s absence (hence why Luke bothers to tell us that the Apostles gathered in Prayer with Mary after the ascension of our Lord cf. Acts 1:14) and especially she was the one who advised the King on the selection of a new wife. One passage foretelling of the importance of her throne shows very explicitly that the King and his Mother go together in the running of the Kingdom such that the prophecy of doom for the Kingdom, came for the King and the Queen Mother-‘Say to the king and the queen mother, “Take a lowly seat, For your beautiful crown Has come down from your head.”( Jeremiah 13:18)
But back to our Queenship imagery of revelations, we see how it starts to make sense why Mary was painted in Queenship imagery, because in this New Kingdom of Israel, the Church, in this new Family of God with Jesus as King and the Church his bride, Mary stands out as the Gebirah of the New Israel built upon the Davidic Dynasty, the Dynasty of Promise. But one detail many of us miss in considering Revelations 12 is the verses that came before it. Remember that while John wrote the passages of scripture there were no chapters and verses, these were only inserted many years later. Therefore a contextual reading of Revelations 12 should include at least the end of Revelations 11, in Revelations 11:19 we read, “Then the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple. And there were flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and rolls of thunder, and an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.…”. The verse ends chapter 11 before beginning Chapter 12, John had just seen the Ark of the Covenant which of Israel and his going ahead to describe it says, a sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the Sun, with the moon under her feet and away crown of 12 stars. A significant pointer to a truth that we also know of our Lady, she is the Ark of the New Covenant. Not the old ark anymore made of wood, but one made of body and soul, sanctified by God as the Old Ark was meant to be and destined to carry Jesus Christ, the bread of life as the Old Ark carried the Manna, bread from heaven, destined to carry Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest of the New Covenant as the Old Ark carried the Staff of Aaron,Israel’s high priest and a symbol of his priestly authority, and Jesus Christ the Word of God, the New Law, as the Old Ark contained the tablets of stone, the commandments. Portraying Mary as the New Testament Ark of the Covenant Luke draws a lot of parallels between Mary and the Old Testament Ark as he told the story of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary and the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, a comparative textual analysis of 2 Samuel 6:2,9,10,11,12,15,16 and Luke 1:2,39,43,40,56,47,42,41 respectively and in order show in mind-blowing proportions that Luke is consciously drawing parsllels, especially as David says “How is it that the Ark of the Lord should come to me”(2 Samuel 6:9) and Elizabeth says “How is this great thing to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me”(Luke 1:43).
2 Sam 6:2, “And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah [which was a city in Judah] to bring up from there the ark of God.” Lk 1:39, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah…”
2 Sam 6:9, “…and David said, ‘How can the ark of the Lord come to me?’” Lk 1:43, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
2 Sam 6:10, “…but David took [the ark] aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite.”
Lk 1:40, “and she entered the house of Zechariah…”
2 Sam 6:11, “And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months.”
Lk 1:56, “And Mary remained with [Elizabeth] about three months…”
2 Sam 6:12, “So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing…”
Lk 1:47, “…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
2 Sam 6:15, “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting..”
Lk 1:42, “…and [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry…”
So what has Mary become for us in the the New Covenant? What the Ark was for the people of Israel in more explicit terms, for what happened in the Old Covenant was was a foreshadowing of the economy of Salvation in the New Covenant. She is the symbol of the presence of God. But not just a mere symbol, rather, one that effects what she represents, because in this new economy of salvation the saint in their individual roles have become so much so one with our Lord that they mirror him and serve as channels of his graces and blessings, much more so, the Gebirah, Queen of all saints, and Mother of the New Covenant, she therefore is the channel, the mediatrix of all graces, Remember that whenever the people of Israel went to battle with enemy nations they went with the Ark of the covenant. Whenever they carried the Ark of the Covenant, not only were they victorious, the rival territories were thrown into confusion and were scared of them. The Victory of Jericho in Joshua 6 narrates the power of the Ark in battle. The people of Israel led by the levies carrying the Ark of the Covenant, march round the city for seven days and on the last day sound their horns and city walls fall down without a human battle. So too are we confidently carrying our Lady into all our battles, as for sure, she is the terror of the demons.
Having realised this, my confidence has been renewed when I call on Mother, not just in her Motherly embrace as I face the struggles of life, but also in her Maternal mantle as I fight my battles. And I have been fighting quite a lot recently. I guess it would seem, the devil still tries like he always does to overcome me and to win my soul from God. Many times he hardens my heart and tries to make it impervious to the grace of conversion and renewal. He tries to inspire despair and tries to put me in situations that make me hide from the Lord. On one of those situations I had walked into evening Mass at a church dedicated to her honour and what came into my mind and on my lips, was “Cor Mariae”, “Cor Mariae” (meaning Heart of Mary), and as I said these words repeatedly looking at a picture of her on the left of the sanctuary I felt my heart soften within me and in that moment, I knew I was not alone, I knew Our Lord still intended to win in my struggles and I knew that I’d be fine in her arms. Such consolations and stirring of spirit have happened not just once but on other occasions as well. I also remember how much she used to teach me about our Lord and the mysteries behind the events of his life as I meditated on the mysteries of the Rosary. She has inspired in me a poem for Our Lord while praying the rosary, and she has taught me deep truths as well.
Going back to my childhood days, I remember saying at some point that if anyone should ask me why I was who I was as a child, I would tell him Madonna. The Madonna and Child, the symbol of my primary school which bore the same name dedicated to My Lady and My Lord.
In this divine family that I have become part of, I look to her, for her intercession, for my battles, for my growth in intimacy with God. She is my teacher, my consolatrix, my mama, my Queen, my Miracle, my Hope, my royal sweetness, my protectress. Mama, I know I still have a lot to learn in this journey of life. I know we both have a long way in getting me to be more like Christ, thank you mama for your prayers, for being patient with me. I have hope that I will learn all that you want me to well enough to join you and ,yes siblings who have gone before me in heaven with Our Lord.
And so on this day, when the whole Church celebrates your coronation as Queen of Heaven and of Earth in this New Covenant in Christ, I celebrate you, and I launch the hashtag #WhoIsMarytoMe.
Who is Mary to you? Tell the world the world about Mother today.