Thursday, November 18, 2010

Solemnity of Christ the King

Gospel Lk 23: 35-43

Hail Redeemer King divine, 
Priest and lamb the throne is Thine, 
King whose reign shall never cease 
Prince of everlasting peace. 

This hymn is embossed in my heart and mind since childhood. Growing up, it was a hymn that the local choir in Church sung with great gusto. I particularly associate it with Palm Sunday. All the children were given palm branches and were sent walking around the church to the strains of this hymn. And strangely enough, my memory is of everyone singing along - quiet an unusual thing in rural Ireland, may I add!

Hail Redeemer King Divine. Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the Universal King. The King of the Universe, the King of Heaven and Earth. Wonder-councillor, might God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace - as Isiaih 9 would put it. When Pius XI instituted the feast in 1925 kings were not exactly highly valued. In the first quarter of the twentieth century many of the crowned heads of Europe had vanished. Within a few years many more would be gone. Still he took the image of King as a metaphor for Our Lord. Paul VI changed the title to Universal King in 1969.

Why is Christ a king?  Well, in the traditional sense a King is an heir - a son. He is one who has inherited something in a dynasty. We know in human history many awful things were done to insure the an heir got the throne so a family could remain in power. A king was powerful, he had people at his beck and call. A king also gave definition to a state or people, a sort of visible point of unity for the ordering of society. Pomp, ceremony, power, deference; all these characteristics were associated with the King.

Does this sit well with our image of Jesus Christ? Not exactly the attributes of one 'who came to serve and not to be served'. Christ's kingdom is different. Behind the Altar of the Cathedral of my diocese, dedicated to Christ the King written in gold is REGNUM MEUM NON EST DE HOC MUNDO. His kingdom is not of this world. His throne is a cross, his courtiers St John, Mary the women and the centurion. His jewels are nails. His crown thorns. His banquet bread and wine. His law "Father forgive them"

Christ rules the world from the Cross, and in front of the Cross we can only be silent. In His love and suffering he wages the battle. All we have to do is turn up and take the spoils He has won for us. Christ is our King, in Him we are safe and secure. He defends us. He gives us our reference point. The King on  Calvary helps us ascend our mountains of fear, pain and disappointment. And not only does He point the way, but he helps us carry the Cross - for this King is different - this King is least of all and servant of all.

Vexilla Regis - The Banner of the King 

 Vexilla regis prodeunt,
fulget crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

  (The banners of the king issue forth,
doth flash the wonder of the cross,
      where the preserver in flesh, of flesh
by the cross-bar is hung.)

O Crux Ave spes unica. 

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