Words to remember

"Never doubt in the darkness what you believed in the light."

Sunday, November 23, 2008


There should be no sense now that we are still in Ordinary Time. Today we celebrate the Feast of Jesus Christ Our King, marking the last Sunday in the liturgical year. It is fitting that the year ends on such a note. Having marked His birth, His Passion, His death, and His glorious resurrection, and then His ascension into Heaven, the year of our celebration ends with Christ enthroned in glory and majesty.

"Blessing and honour, and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." Rev. 5:13

I apologize in advance, I am writing this post at a few different intervals, and my brain is all over the place. So this is unsystematic and will probably come out quite rambling and nonsensical.

This is certainly one area in which our history plays against us. We instinctively react against a king, much as our fathers the Romans did before us, for all that we enjoy the royal gossip and pageantry of other countries. The man who would be king is a man to be feared, not loved or admired. The idea of one man ruling seems to us to be perverse, unjust, wicked. The ideas of popular sovereignty are so ingrained in us that the government of a sovereign, a monarch, is something we decry. Sadly so. Yet nevertheless, Christ reigns eternally as our High King, through whom all thrones on Earth stand, and before whom all thrones will fall in worship and adoration.

Yup, it's a nice time of the year for a triumphalist Catholic with strongly monarchist tendencies. The Servant of the Servants of God, Pope Pius XI, reminded us beautifully of the imagery and fact of the sovereign kingship of Christ in his encyclical Quas Primas:This same doctrine of the Kingship of Christ which we have found in the Old Testament is even more clearly taught and confirmed in the New. The Archangel, announcing to the Virgin that she should bear a Son, says that "the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." In fact, we confess this every feast and Sunday when we state He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end

How is such a thing important to us today? I mean, certainly the liturgical regalia and ceremonial is all great fun, and spiritually nourishing. It's been a part of Christian thought and imagery since time immemorial. In fact, the Easter sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes is a subtle reference to just such a doctrine. Aside from its literal meaning "praises", the Latin 'laudes' is also the direct term for a royal ceremony, the praises of the king, especially the Carolingian Emperor. I would be content to leave the issue there, but why not go further in this instance? Why is it important that Christ be seen as King?

For one thing, He is. God has granted Him the primacy in all things; He is the firstborn of all creation. The rule is His by right. And God has promised that this is so; at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, as they would to a king. And so in the completed Heaven, that is Christ's role. What does this mean for us? The thinking here is old, but significant. Earthly governments do not simply exist in a vacuum- every king, every ruler, has his rule and his kingdom from God. This means also that every institution which governs men must in some respect be infused with that spirit. But for a king, a government, to claim that it has a right to exist of its own, that its dignity is its own, is guilty of the same sin as Lucifer, who would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Sounds like a theocracy? Not quite. While I would find it vastly preferable if every human being were safe and secure within Holy Mother Church, that has never been the case in human history. From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, any institution rooted in some transcendent moral principle will last longer than one that does not, so there's that to consider. Our earthly hierarchy is not an atom- God is not dead, but very much alive, and still concerned with the doings of His people. The caelestial hierarchy is the basis of the mundane. This is one area, interestingly enough, in which traditional Chinese thought is quite salient (at least of the Confucian variety) to our own. But the loss of this sense of the rootedness of all just government in the decrees of God is probably one of the reasons we see it abused so much. We spend so much time storing up treasures on Earth; it's no longer about easing the lot of the poor or bettering ourselves morally, mentally, or spiritually. More and more our society chugs along dreaming of the earthly paradise we could only create if . Our world is lovely, even beautiful, and our life is good. But what we make here is not the end. There used to be this ecstatic vision of Heaven. The Beatific Vision was something worth giving everything for. And how few today we're encouraged to seek it. Most of the stuff we encounter in our daily lives bombards us with messages to discourage just such a quest. It wasn't that life was so much more horrible in years gone by; it's that the sense of joy, the reality of eternal life, was so much stronger then.

I wonder in what respects this ties into the shrinking of the imagination. It's a faculty we might hardly exercise in a given day. That's probably why literature, music, and the visual arts have suffered so. It's the here-and-now that concerns us, and with the ratcheting of entertainment, that's ever more the case. I mean, look at what we call what we watch on TV: reality television. TV's not a bad thing in and of itself, and can be quite engrossing and educational. Some shows are possessed of excellent writing or other such characteristics. But when we start considering what happens in that cathode ray tube "real", we're already in a world of problems. Our very outlook starts to become two-dimensional.

Like I said, disjointed and horribly unsystematic post today. Tired, and my mind's racing. Oh well. At least there are purdy pictures to look at?

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