DAY 12: “QUEEN OF MARTYRS” (REGINA MARTYRUM)
The fifth of Our Lady’s twelve invocations as “Queen” praises her as “Queen of Martyrs” (Latin, Regina Martyrum) in the Litany. After the apostles, the martyrs were the main pillar of the faith of the early Christians. The word “Martyr” from the Greek root, means “witness.” Martyrs were those who testified to their faith with their own blood; put differently, a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce his/her faith. Given the antecedent, how precisely is Mary “Queen of Martyrs?” Yes, she is Queen of heaven and earth, including the martyrs. But did she experience martyrdom such that she becomes a queen and model of Martyrs?
First, the most familiar biblical reference to Mary’s martyrdom springs from Simeon’s prophecy in the Temple, when he received the infant Jesus into his arms. He prophesied that Mary’s heart (soul) would be pierced by a sword (cf. Lk 2:35). Years later, this prophecy came to its fulfilment at the scene of the crucifixion on Mount Calvary, where Mary stood at the foot of the cross where her dying Son was nailed; she wept bitterly in watching him die such a shameful death (cf. Jn. 19:25), and the eventual piercing of His side with a lance (Jn. 19:34). In fact, as a mother, she experienced such a horrible and painful sorrow that she nearly died with her suffering and dying Son in a way that it can justly be said that she collaborated in the redemption of humanity with Christ. That time was the very point where the “sword pierced her soul.” Therefore, it becomes pertinent to say that Mary participated with her heart what Jesus suffered in the flesh on the cross. In this light, the Blessed Virgin Mary could be said to be the first Christian martyr. This is a profound mystery that unites the mother with her son, which cannot be disputed; virtually all mothers understand this reality.
Our Lady’s martyrdom could be likened to the relationship between rose and thorns. Just as the rose grows, the thorns grow; so too, the more the Virgin, the chosen Rose of the Lord, grew in age, the more the thorns of her cruel martyrdom on account of the faith grew to torment her. Our life can be a martyrdom, a slow martyrdom of little daily irritations, a martyrdom of illnesses, setbacks, and other forms of challenges for the sake of the gospel, etc. This is reminiscent of what Paul talks about in 2 Cor. 4:8-12: “We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. In us, then, death is at work; in you, life.” Hence, Mary lived intensely her son’s diverse “passions” without an atom of despair; thus, being the mother of the Redeemer, she lived out her consistent and true compassion in a very special way. That is why the Church calls her “co-redemptrix,” that is, a collaborator with the Redeemer. In fact, she anticipated what the martyrs of all times would be called to live.
Dear friends in Christ, we know that there are different forms of martyrdom, today. The community of Christian disciples is always in a state of martyrdom, whether in the etymological sense (that is, “witness”) or in the most common of being persecuted and killed on account of the gospel. We have a thousand opportunities to bear witness to our faith. It can happen in the family, in the community, at work, in friendships. This will often require tears, sweat and, of course, blood. Put differently, all of us are called to the martyrdom of charity and compassion – Mary’s martyrdom. We die to ourselves and give witness to Christ in all the small sacrifices of daily life. And, like glorious stained-glass windows, we must do so joyfully, aware that in the beauty of self-control, generosity and prayerfulness, our lives illuminate others’ with Christ’s light. By invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Queen of Martyrs,” may we be encouraged to follow Christ’s footsteps in bearing witness to the gospel even in the face of death.
Let us pray
Lord our God, You called the Blessed Virgin Mary as a faithful disciple to bear witness and share in the passion of your Son as Queen of Martyrs. Through her intercessions, may we be endowed with compassionate hearts towards the sufferings of our fellowmen and continually bear witness to the truth even at the expense of our lives. Amen.
Oh “Queen of Martyrs” (Regina Martyrum), pray for us that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?