The Queenship of Mary: from a Sermon of St Aelred of Rievaulx

Born in 1110, St Aelred died at Rievaulx (Yorkshire) in 1167. The son of a priest, he was educated at Durham and in the household of King David of Scotland. In 1134 he visited the newly founded Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx and was so attracted to the place and its life that he chose to become a monk there, and was eventually elected abbot. He is remembered for his gift for friendship, for his sensitive and gentle rule, and for his enduringly popular spiritual writings. 

We owe her honor because she is the Mother of our Lord. Let us come to God’s bride, let us come to our Savior’s mother, let us come to the best of God’s handmaidens. All of these descriptions fit Blessed Mary.

But what are we to do for her? What sort of gifts shall we offer her? 

O that we might at least repay to her the debt we owe her! We owe her honor, we owe her devotion, we owe her love, we owe her praise. We owe her honor because she is the Mother of our Lord. He who does not honor the mother will without doubt dishonor the son. Besides, Scripture says: ‘Honor your father and your mother.’

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? Is she not our mother? Certainly, friends, she is in truth our mother. Through her, we are born, not to the world but to God.

We all, as you believe and know, were in death, in the infirmity of old age, in darkness, in misery. In death, because we had lost the Lord; in the infirmity of old age, because we were in corruption; in darkness, because we had lost the light of wisdom, and so we had altogether perished.

But through Blessed Mary, we all underwent a much better birth than through Eve, inasmuch as Christ was born of Mary. Instead of the infirmity of age, we have regained youth, instead of corruption, incorruption, instead of darkness, light.

She is our mother, mother of our life, of our incorruption, of our light. The Apostle says of our Lord, ‘Whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and redemption.

She therefore who is the mother of Christ is the mother of our wisdom, mother of our righteousness, mother of our sanctification, mother of our redemption. Therefore she is more our mother than the mother of our flesh. Better, therefore, is our birth which we derive from Mary, for from her is our holiness, our wisdom; our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption.

Scripture says, ‘Praise the Lord in his saints’. If our Lord is to be praised in those saints through whom he performs mighty works and miracles, how much more should he be praised in her in whom he fashioned himself, he who is wonderful beyond all wonder.

The Synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these.  The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally. The Synod, on the other hand, is a process of authentic spiritual discernment that we undertake, not to project a good image of ourselves, but to cooperate more effectively with the work of God in history.  If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity.  

A second risk is intellectualism.  Intellectualism would turn the Synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world.  The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

Finally, the temptation of complacency. That expression – “We have always done it that way” – is poison for the life of the Church.  Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living.  The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems.  A patch of rough cloth that ends up creating a worse tear (cf. Mt 9:16).  It is important that the synodal process be exactly this: a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.                     

The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen.  To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer.  Today how much we miss the prayer of adoration; so many people have lost not only the habit but also the very notion of what it means to worship God!  To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground. 

The Synodal Process offers us the opportunity to become a Church of closeness.  Let us keep going back to God’s own “style”, which is closeness, compassion and tender love.  God has always operated that way. Let us not forget God’s style, which must help us: closeness, compassion and tender love.