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:
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?
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
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]
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
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
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:
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:
READING OF THE WORD OF GOD
RITE OF CROWNING
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.
M. Jean Frisk
See also May, Mary's
Month, Marian Coronation
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