27. The Queen of Angels
A treatise on the holy angels, however, brief, would be incomplete without a few words in praise of her who is the glorious “Queen of Angels.” This, as every one knows, is one of the titles of the “Litany of Loreto,” which has the official sanction of the Church, being incorporated in the liturgy. It has also, we may say, the endorsement of the angels themselves. For is it not to them that we owe the beautiful Easter anthem in honour of Our Lady? And are not the first words, “Queen of Heaven,” an equivalent of “Queen of Angels,” or more than an equivalent, having even a wider meaning?
Certainly, in the Kingdom of Heaven, the gauge by which all things are measured is heavenly grace, and in this, as Suarez declares, the Blessed Virgin surpasses not only the greatest saints, but even the highest angels. In fact, that illustrious doctor says that it is of faith that Our Lady is superior to them all in blessedness. It follows, then, that she surpasses all in grace, as beatitude is proportioned to grace.
Hence, Saint John Damascene calls her an “abyss of grace.” And Saint Epiphanius, addressing her, says, “Excepting God alone, thou art suprior to all others, not can the tongues of men or angels worthily praise thee.” And Saint Bernardine avers that her perfection is so great that only God can fully understand it. And, finally, Saint Ephrem proclaims her “holier than the cherubim, holier than the seraphim, and incomparably more glorious than all the rest of the heavenly hosts.”
And indeed the grace which Mary received in her first sanctification surpassed the final grace of the highest of the angels, as was only befitting in the case of her who was one day to be raised to the supreme dignity of Mother of God, and whom her Divine Son already loved as destined to that closest union with Him. He loved her beyond angels and saints, and hence adorned her soul with greater grace than that of all other creatures.
“Observe the seraphim,” exclaims Saint Peter Damian, “and you will see, that all that is greatest is less than the Virgin, and that only the Artificer surpasses this work.”
It is in this sense that Catholic divines understand such texts of Scripture as the passage at the opening of the 86th Psalm, “Her foundations are in the holy mountains.” That is to say, the grace which was for others the term beyond which they did not pass, was only a beginning for Mary, and was enhanced and intensified by numberless acts of the most perfect charity, until at the close of her long earthly career her grace and her merit were indeed a boundless abyss, a treasure which to created intelligence was truly inconceivable. No wonder that Suarez, who makes some sort of computation of the final sum of Mary’s sanctity, holds that it is far greater than the combined sanctity of all the angels and saints.
Hence Saint Ildephonsus, as quoted by Suarez, says, “As what she did was incomparable, and what she received was ineffable, so the glory which she merited as a recompense, is incomprehensible.” And Saint Damascene says that “there is an infinite distance between the Mother of God and the servants of God.”
Hence, also, Saint John Chrysostom affirms that there is nothing in the whole world that can bear comparison with Mary, whom he pronounces “incomparably more glorious than the seraphim.” And Saint Lawrence Justinian says that “deservedly whatever honour, whatever blessedness, was found in others individually, was abundantly present in the Blessed Virgin.” And Saint Jerome declares that “to others grace was imparted by portions, but upon Mary the whole fullness of grace was poured out simultaneously. And Saint Peter Damian says that
standing forth amid the souls of the saints and the choirs of angels, and lifted up above them, she excels them in merit individually and outstrips the titles of all.
And he concludes with these words,
All radiant amid that inaccessible light, she so unites in her the dignity of both orders of spirits, that they are as though they were not, and in comparison with her they cannot and ought not to appear.
Mary, then, is indeed the “Queen of Angels.” her grace and supernatural blessedness lift her far above the most excellent of the elect, to an amazing height of glory at the right hand of her Divine Son. And the sweetness of her manner which endears her to the everlasting kingdom fo love. The angels bow low before her, as the Angel Gabriel did at Nazareth. It is a privilege for them to minister to her, whom with that bright spirit they recognize as full of grace, adn they are thrilled with delight as forever they proclaim her “blessed among women,” a veritable prodigy of the divine wisdom and omnipotence, the “unapproachable crown of all the saints.”