Coronation of Mary

Brief History of Coronation

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."
[See Pius XII, Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, Oct 11, 1954]

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. The English translation was approved by the Administrative Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States on March 24, 1987 and confirmed ad interim by the Apostolic see by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship on May 22, 1987. The new Order of Crowning includes three types of coronation. [See below]

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 for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." [Luke 1:32-33] ... Elizabeth greeted the Blessed Virgin, pregnant with Jesus, as "the Mother of my Lord." [Luke 1:41-43]

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 righteousness," [See 2 Timothy 4:8] the "crown of life," [See James 1:12; Revelation 2:10] the "crown of glory" [See 1 Peter 5:4] that is promised to those who follow Christ.

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 liturgical cultus 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."

Rites of Coronation

The Order of Crowning gives three rites:

  • Crowning of an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary within Mass
  • Crowning of an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary within Evening Prayer
  • Crowning of an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary within a Celebration of the Word of God

It is this third form that has often been expressed in a modified form in our local parishes. The Order of Crowning gives the following outline:

INTRODUCTORY RITES

  • Entrance Song
  • Greeting
  • Brief Instruction
  • Opening Prayer

READING OF THE WORD OF GOD

  • Readings
  • Homily

RITE OF CROWNING

  • Thanksgiving and Invocation
  • Crowning
  • Litany

CONCLUDING RITES

  • Blessing and Dismissal
  • Antiphon or Song

It is not the intention of this article to repeat the published rites. These can be obtained through Catholic Book Publishing (New York City) 089 942-798-7; they are also found at the end of Volume 2 of Rites for Sacraments. Nonetheless, we would like to conclude with a sample prayer under "Brief Instruction" and to offer some suggestions for a modified text to be used in a parish setting.

Brief Instruction

[The bishop or his representative may give a brief instruction to the people for the purpose of preparing them for the rite and explaining its significance. He may do so in the following or similar words.]

We have come here to crown this picture/statue/sculpture of the Virgin Mother of God [the Virgin Mother and her Son]. As we begin this celebration, let us be attentive and listen to the word of God in faith.

This ceremony has a lesson to teach us about the Gospel: that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who are foremost in serving and in love.

Our Lord himself came to serve, not to be served; he drew all things to himself when he was lifted up from the earth, and he reigned from the tree by the power of gentleness and love.

And our Lady, whose glory we proclaim today, was the humble servant of the Lord when she was on earth: she gave herself utterly to her Son and his work; with him, and under him, she was an instrument in our redemption.

Now, in the glory of heaven, she is still the God-bearer to Christ's brothers and sisters: she cares about their eternal salvation; she is minister of holiness and queen of love.

Let us pray. O God, since you have given us Mary, the Mother of your Son, to be our mother and our queen, grant that we, who have come here to crown her image, may attain the glory of your children in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

M. Jean Frisk

See also May, Mary's Month, Marian Coronation

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This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by Kris Sommers , was last modified Monday, 04/29/2013 09:50:32 EDT by Ann Zlotnik . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.