At the end of every Rosary, we sing or say a wondrous anthem to Our Lady that dates to 11th century: the 'Salve Regina' (Hail, Holy Queen).
- Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ, ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende: O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.
It's words are familiar to us, and much loved, and within this short antiphon Mary is given up to twelve titles or attributes, and these disclose the source of her joy, and thus the font of our joy as Christians and as her children. Through this novena, as we contemplate the joys of Mary, which were first announced by St Gabriel the archangel, we pray that we too may come to share personally in Our Lady's joy. Especially in this time when anxiety, fear, and some despondency stalks the land, it is all the more important that we, as children of Mary, should plunge deeply into the mysteries of salvation as revealed by these titles of Mary, and so draw joyfully from the wells of the Saviour. (cf Isa 12:3)
The first word of this anthem, "Salve" is a Latin greeting, often used interchangeably with "Ave". It obviously references the salutation of the angel as recounted in Luke 1:38-36. Hence this word is often translated as 'Hail'. However, as is often the case, the Greek text of the Scriptures reveals a richer meaning. The angel greets Our Lady with the word 'chairé', which can also be translated as the imperative, 'Rejoice!' So, the angel opens with a declaration of Mary's joy, by calling on her to rejoice. Why? Because of the graces that God has poured out upon her. Indeed, the word 'chairé' is itself related to the Greek word for grace, 'cháris', and so with his opening word the angel sums up the cause of Mary's joy by saying, in effect, "Rejoice in God's grace." God alone can be the cause of our joy because he is pure delight and joy. Mary, who is so full of God's grace, and in whose womb God will come and dwell, is thus suffused and filled with Joy himself.
It is in this light that we consider the joys of Mary, through the lens of her various titles and attributes as found in the 'Salve Regina'.
In 1954, Pope Pius XII established the feast of the Queenship of Mary, and he wrote a beautiful encyclical extolling Mary as our Queen. He says that when St Gabriel greeted Our Lady and announced that she was to become the Mother of Jesus Christ our God, so at the same time, "the heavenly voice of the Archangel Gabriel was the first to proclaim Mary's royal office" because she is the mother of the Lord God, who is the King of heaven and of earth. As with every dignity given to Our Lady, these are derived from Christ, and they point to his unique identity.
However, Pope Pius XII adds: "But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation." What role is this? The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in Mary's womb. God took his human nature and substance from Mary; Christ, our Saviour shares her DNA, and so Mary is forever associated intimately with the work of Man's salvation. Pius XII thus says that "the Most Blessed Virgin is queen not only because she is Mother of God, but also because, as the new Eve, she was associated with the new Adam", that is to say, with the One who renews and redeems the whole human race. Pope Pius XI thus says that Mary is a "partner in the redemption of the human race". Mary, therefore, rejoices because, through her "Yes", all of creation and specifically, the entire human race, is saved by Christ from eternal death. With her eye fixed upon the goal and the prize of salvation and eternal life, the grace of which she experiences in her own person through the Immaculate Conception, no sorrow can overcome her.
The popular Biblical scholar Scott Hahn has said that Mary also stands in the ancient Jewish lineage of the Queen Mother who intercedes with her son, the King. So, Mary stands as our Queen, who wishes to give the treasures of the heavenly King - the graces of salvation and sanctification that make us co-heirs with Christ to the kingdom of heaven. As Pius XII says: "from her union with Christ she receives the royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer's Kingdom", and so, we might say that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces. (cf Lumen Gentium, §62)
Therefore, we turn to her with confidence, and we dedicate ourselves to her, and we hail her as our Queen. The aspiration of our Novena, and our hope in rededicating England to Our Lady on the 29th of March 2020 is summed up stirringly by Pope Pius XII:
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. Let her churches be thronged by the faithful, her feast-days honored; may the beads of the Rosary be in the hands of all; may Christians gather, in small numbers and large, to sing her praises in churches, in homes, in hospitals, in prisons [so that] all Christians, in honouring and imitating their sublime Queen and Mother, will realize they are truly brothers, and, with all envy and avarice thrust aside, will promote love among classes, respect the rights of the weak, cherish peace. No one should think himself a son of Mary, worthy of being received under her powerful protection, unless, like her, he is just, gentle and pure, and shows a sincere desire for true brotherhood, not harming or injuring but rather helping and comforting others.
Let us, therefore, pray with joy to Mary, our Queen, resolving to be her true children!
Take a moment to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (cf Luke 2,19)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Col 4:6