Pastor’s Column May 5, 2013
Pastor’s Column May, 5, 2013
A Brief History of May Crowning:
Since the Council of Nicea in 787, the Church has often asserted that it is lawful to venerate images of Christ, Mary and the saints. This is an ancient practice of the Christian churches in both the East and in the West. As the official liturgical Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary [published in 1987 by the United States Catholic Conference] states:
Coronation of Mary: Coronation is one form of reverence frequently shown to images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. … It is especially from the end of the sixteenth century that in the West the practice became widespread for the faithful, both religious and laity, to crown images of the Blessed Virgin. The popes not only endorsed this devout custom but “on many occasions, either personally or through bishop-delegates, carried out the coronation of Marian images.” In the seventeenth century a special rite was composed for the coronation of religious images of Jesus, Mary and the saints. In the nineteenth century a rite was written for crowning images of Mary. New rites were approved by the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in Rome of March 25, 1981.
Why put a crown on Mary’s head?
The queen symbol was attributed to Mary because she is a perfect follower of Christ, who is the absolute ‘crown’ of creation. As the Order of Crowning states: She is the Mother of the Son of God, who is the messianic King. Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Word incarnate. … “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as “the Mother of my Lord.” She is the perfect follower of Christ. The maid of Nazareth consented to God’s plan; she journeyed on the pilgrimage of faith; she listened to God’s word and kept it in her heart; she remained steadfastly in close union with her Son, all the way to the foot of the cross; she persevered in prayer with the Church. Thus in an eminent way she won the “crown of life.”
How is Mary crowned?
In the United States, a custom developed that grew in popularity prior to the Vatican II council. In parishes, at Marian shrines, and at grottos, someone was chosen to place a wreath of flowers on Mary’s image. This ceremony usually took place in May and often in the context of a Benediction, a special Rosary celebration, and sometimes at the closing of Mass. The practice continues in many parishes throughout the United States. Many parishes have found innovative ways to express their reverence for the dignity of Mary, the Mother of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Order of Crowning, however, as mentioned here, is an official, liturgical act fittingly carried out by the diocesan bishop or delegate. It may take place at any time of the year, fittingly on solemnities and feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary or on other festive days. As the Order of Crowning states, “….it should be noted that it is proper to crown only those images to which the faithful come with a confidence in the Mother of the Lord so strong that the images are of great renown and their sites centers of genuine liturgy and of religious vitality. For a sufficient period before the celebration of the rite, the faithful should be instructed on its meaning and purely religious nature… The crown … should be fashioned out of material of a kind that will symbolize the singular dignity of the Blessed Virgin.” The instructions ask that the crown nevertheless be simple and avoid “opulence.” Mary’s prayers for us and our intentions are requested. We rejoice with her that one day we may share her dignity when we ourselves may receive the “crown of glory.”
Peace, Fr. Tom