When Your Wine Glass Is Empty
As a tumultuous 2016 quickly draws to a close—a year wrought with political vitriol, unprecedented violence between police and the citizenry, international humanitarian crises, and a shortage of hatchimals, we need our Mother more than ever. Let us turn to her in these final days of Advent and ask her to intercede on behalf of our country.
Where do we get this concept of Mary as advocate and intercessor? Like a fine wine, it is a well-aged idea, rooted in the Old Testament. Beginning in the time of Solomon, the Davidic monarchs of Judah took a cue from their Near Eastern neighbors by reserving the office of “Queen” to the mother of the king. An understandable move when you remember that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines[…and they called him Wise? ba-dum-tish].
The Queen Mother was not merely treated with deference, but rather, held a significant official political position superseded only by that of the King himself. She was the Boss, holding responsibility over the royal wives in court. [Again, as a royal wife, you’re now not only sharing the king with 999 other women, but your mother-in-law has actual political power over you.] She could also partake in political council meetings, the judiciary, and the cult. The respect for the Queen Mother was such that she was even allowed to reprove and correct the king (you know, like a mom). Her greatest authority derived from her personal influence over the chief or king. *Hairflip*
And as a woman who has the king’s ear, the Queen Mother became an advocate for the people, interceding on their behalf with her son, the King. We see this most particularly in 1 Kings 2.
After King David’s final address to his son Solomon [which includes the phrase “Be a Man!”], David dies, and Solomon becomes king, making Bathsheba the “Queen Mother.” Adonijah, who would be better known as Bitter Betty in the parlance of our times, approaches the Queen Mother Bathsheba, and asks a favor. Adonijah says, “Please ask King Solomon, who will not refuse you.” 1 Kings 2:17. Emphasis added.
The Queen Mother agrees to speak to the king on his behalf. And here’s where it gets interesting:
Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right.She said, “There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.” The king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” 1 Kings 2:19-20.
Wha-wha-what? Yes. The King has a THRONE brought in for his mom… and she sits at his right! All the better to influence him, my dear. He honors her, respects her, and will not refuse her. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Does Adonijah get his request?? Wait, what was Adonijah’s request? Can I ask the Queen Mother if I can win the Powerball? All of these are questions we can address at another time. As Jesus would say, “Woman, what has this to do with me or you?” I’m getting there…
If Jesus is Our King, who is the Queen Mother in His Kingdom? Mary!
And we see this at the Wedding at Cana when Mary is “moved with pity” as she notices the shortage of wine at the wedding (LG 58). In her unique position as the Mother of the King, Mary confidently turns to her royal Son for help in a way that no one else would. Jesus Christ, the King, responds to the intercession of the Queen. Saint John Paul II notes in Redemptoris Mater, 21:
At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance (‘They have no wine’). But it is a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings.
Now being from southern Louisiana, I take some issue with JPII’s assessment that it is “of little importance” to run out of wine at a party. Personally, I find John 2:3 to be one of the saddest verses in all of Scripture. Scholars disagree on the translation, but some argue that Mary may not have said “They have no wine” but actually just held up her empty glass and gave Jesus “the look”… well maybe no scholars say that, but that’s what my Ignatian meditation looks like.
Mary is Queen, and we are the people for whom she advocates. When Jesus sits upon his throne of The Cross, wearing his bloody crown of thorns, she takes a seat at his right. Who is there at Calvary? Mary, sitting beside the throne of The Cross. And she brings our favors, our prayers, our requests, our pitiful woes, and our tremendous needs to her Son. And the King says, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” Are we asking Mary, the Queen Mother, to intercede on our behalf? We must.
Mary, Our Queen and Our Mother,
Today I pray in particular for the peaceful transition of power in this nation; the forgotten man and the forgotten woman; born and unborn children; the cold, the hungry, the lost, and those that go without… comfort, love, hope; for the old and the young; for the kids I graduated high school with, and the strangers I meet tomorrow; the readers of this blog, and those who cannot afford a computer, wifi, or smartphone; for the Pope and the Church; the catholic campus ministries of this nation, and the catechists, the volunteers and the voluntolds; the people I ignore, and the people I obsess about; my mom and my dad, my students, and my friends, the family that is far away and the ones that are no longer with us, and… world peace. That’s all. Please have your Son fill up this wine glass again. Amen.
If you want more on this topic, I highly recommend: Edward Sri, “Advocate and Queen,” in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons ed. Mark Miravalle (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing 2007), 467-505.
This post originally published on TheCatholicOutpost.com on December 19, 2016.