We conclude our Patristic Rosary Project today with the:
5th Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Our Lady
Can we be certain of our final judgment? Those who say they are run the risk of the sin of presumption. We must proceed always with humbly confident perseverance. Salvation is possible. Our Lord has taken our humanity to the heavenly throne, where it (and we in it) already are glorified. The saints the Church has discerned through our long earthly pilgrimage, demonstrate that virtue and perseverance is possible. They intercede before God’s throne for us. Our greatest example and intercessor is the Blessed Mother of God, our Mother and Mother of the Church, who was assumed body and soul into heaven and is now reigning as heavens Queen. In our recitation of the Rosary we gaze at Mary our motherly Queen who redirects our gaze to the source of her beauty, the Lord Himself. Their glory is our promise. But first, with tools such as the Rosary in hand, we must make our way through this world and persevere to the end and our judgment.
Cassiodorus (+c. 585) writes:
The holy man demands judgment because he is certain of the Lord’s mercy. As Paul has it: "As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that day." He walks in his innocence because… he puts his trust in the Lord. The presumption he shows is not in his own powers but in God’s generosity. [Explanation of the Psalms 25.1]
The idea of judgment can make us at times shivers. But we approach it knowing that Mary is our advocate. We can come to heaven with some measure of humble confidence. St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) wrote to Hesychius a bishop in Dalamatia:
I have received the letter of your Reverence in which you urge on us the great good of loving and longing for the coming of our Savior. In this you act like the good servant of the master of the household who is eager for his lord’s gain and who wishes to have many sharers in the love which burns so brightly and constantly in you. Examining, therefore, the passage you quoted from the apostle where he said that the Lord would render a crown of justice not only to him but to all who love His coming, we live as uprightly as he and we pass through this world as pilgrims while our heart constantly expands with this love, and whether He comes sooner or later than He is expected, His coming is loved with faithful charity and longed for with pious affection. [ep. 199.1.1]
In heaven Mary has been crowned with glory. This is the reward of her faithfulness, a faithfulness beyond all others which merits a crown more glorious than any other. The reward of the crown is often, mostly associated with the struggle ending in bloody martyrdom. Our Lady is also crowned as the Queen of martyrs. Not all of us will be graced with the final perseverance that ends in the perfect charity which is bloody martyrdom for the sake of God and neighbor. We must persevere in far more mundane details of ongoing life, in prayer, work, and contemplation. Cassiodorus mentions something in this regard, however, which is very useful for us:
As someone has said, you will scarcely ever find that when a person prays, some empty and external reflection does not impede him, causing the attention which the mind directs on God to be sidetracked and interrupted. So it is a great and most wholesome struggle to concentrate on prayer once begun, and with God’s help to show lively resistance to the temptations of the enemy, so that our minds may with unflagging attention strain to be ever fastened on God. Then we can deservedly recite Paul’s words: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, i have kept the faith. [Explanation of the Psalms 101.1]
Our Blessed Mother exemplifies perfectly the struggle of perseverance. Given exceptional graces, Mary was open with perfect focus to all God offered her, including her sufferings in unity with her Son. Her willing participation in the Passion of the Lord makes her the greatest of the martyrs, and while she did not physically receive the Lord’s wounds, she suffered by them nonetheless.
St. John Chrysostom (+407) speaks of crowns:
We see no garments or cloaks, but we see crowns more valuable than any gold, than any contest prizes or rewards, and ten thousand blessings stored up for those who live upright and virtuous lives on earth. [On the incomprehensible nature of God 6.7]
The many beautiful things of this world can take our attention and affection so much that they begin to displace in us our hunger for the reward of heaven. We must keep always firmly in mind that everything in this world fades and passes. Our hope of lasting happiness is found only in heaven with God. Venerable Bede (+735) speaks to this:
The flower of the field is pretty and its smell is pleasant for a while, but it soon loses the attraction of its beauty and charm. The present happiness of the ungodly is exactly the same – it lasts for a day or two and then vanishes into nothing. The rising sun stands for the sentence of the strict Judge, which puts a quick end to the transient glory of the reprobate. Of course it is also true that the righteous person flourish, though not in the same way. The unrighteous flourish for a time, like glass, but the righteous flourish forever like great trees, as Scripture says: "The righteous flourish like the palm tree." [Concerning the Epistle of James]
Didymus the Blind (+398), the teacher of St. Jerome and Rufinus expands this:
James does all he can to encourage people to bear their trials with joy, as a burden which is bearable, and says that perfect patience consists in bearing this for their own sake, not for the hope of some better reward elsewhere. He nevertheless tries to persuade his hearers to rely on the promise that their present state will be put right. The person who has fought the hard battles will be perfectly able to handle anything. Someone who comes through his troubles in this way will be duly prepared to receive his reward, which is the crown of life prepared by God for those who love him. [Commentary on James]
The Rosary teaches us to gaze, with Mary as our guide and companion, always upon the face of Christ, who reveals man more fully to himself. In crowning our Lady as Queen, the Lord does in an unsurpassed way what He does in each one of us: He crowns His own merits. But in doing so, Christ reveals more and more about who we are and what we were made for.