Christ the King
On this day, we honour Our Lord Jesus Christ as our King. Even though it is a feast which gives us joy and fills us with enthusiasm, it may also be one we have difficulty relating to, given that we instinctively compare Christ the King with the kings of this earth, such as King Charles III. Unfortunately, the comparison is not helpful, for other than the title, Jesus Christ and Charles III have very little in common. But that doesn’t matter. It’s not because the modern world distorts the meaning of words that we must stop using them. It’s not because the concept of true royalty has been lost that we can no longer use it in its proper place and attribute it to the One who is truly king.
What is a king? A king is a monarch. That is to say he has full power to govern his people. That power englobes what modern governments call the legislative, the judiciary and the executive branches. All power is given to a true king to make laws, to enforce them and to judge and condemn those who violate them. Such is the power that Jesus Christ has over each and every human being, each and every family, each and every society. The difference between His rule and that of any other king in the traditional sense of the term is that, whereas temporal kings rule only the life of citizens within the earthly polity, the rule of Christ is both spiritual and temporal. Its goal is to lead souls not only to a peaceful life on earth, but also, and more importantly, to a blessed eternity in Heaven. As today’s introit reminds us, Jesus Christ alone is worthy to receive all praise and glory. And as St Paul tells us in the epistle: All things hold together in Him, His power is eternal, all owe Him hommage and obedience.
While Christ is king of all regardless of what people think of Him, and while we know that in the end all rational creatures – angels and men – will bend the knee before Him, willingly or unwillingly, the whole purpose of this feast is to proclaim loud and clear the lordship of Christ over all human institutions. But human institutions are composed of humans, and so the kingship of Christ begins with the power He has over our individual lives. Our families and our countries will be devoted to God only if the individuals that compose them are too.
This brings up a real difficulty, namely, how to ensure that we Catholics live up to the demands of our faith in a pagan world. When we look around us and we see the disruption, the corruption, the overt attack on all that is healthy and sane in humanity, and especially when we experience that many Catholics themselves do not seem to be aware of their dignity, or if they are, of how they are to live up to it, we can get quite discouraged. However, truth and nature never lose their rights. Nature always makes a comeback. If the majority of our contemporaries walk on their heads, one day they will discover that it is much easier and more efficient to walk on their feet. What I mean by that is that one day, we will rediscover the marvels of our spiritual and bodily nature. Then, and only then, can society be healed, because individuals will be both sane and holy, sani et sancti.
G. K. Chesterton wrote at the end of his marvellous little book entitled Heretics these words: “Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed”.
We may indeed be on the threshold of that stage in human history where open battle could very well ignite to defend, not just the Church from her enemies, not just our nations from invaders, but man himself from the perversion of his mind and the shameless complicity of wayward lawmakers: the woman from murdering her own child; the man from murdering his own father; the adolescent girl from thinking she is a boy and the surgeon from amputating her breasts… We can be sure that today, the battle for Christ the King goes first through the battle for sanity and for respect for nature. Is it not mind-boggling to think that we have men in power today who will move heaven and earth to save a baby whale, but will not only do nothing to prevent, but actively enforce the so-called right of doctors to mutilate their patients and mothers to kill their babies? Wars have been fought in the past to eradicate lesser evils than that, and even though we hope it will not come to that, Chesterton’s words may well have been prophetic.
So how have we gotten ourselves here, and how do we get out? The remote cause, which goes back several centuries, is that we have abandoned the philosophia perennis, especially as typified by St Thomas Aquinas; people have forgotten how to think; they do not think, or rather they allow their thoughts to be enslaved to their feelings. The proximate cause in our century goes back to the day when the Church allowed Jesus Christ to be uncrowned and placed side by side with Buddha, Confucius, Krishna, Mohammed and Pachamama in the modern pantheon; it was when we stopped preaching that Jesus alone is Lord and that Jesus alone is the way to eternal salvation; when we gave ear to the false prophets who, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, lured us away from our holy traditions into the murky waters of mass ecclesial confusion, and allowed ourselves to be convinced that all that matters is being nice since everybody goes to Heaven anyway. The final result we have before us. People are no longer guided by reason, but by feelings, emotions, passions. Especially in the younger generations, even among good families, there is often a radical incapacity to look at life through the lens of reason and faith. Everything is played out at the level of sensual gratification, nor is there any notion of who they are and how they are meant to function if they want to have a fulfilled life. Everything is about feelings and emotions.
One man is drawn to junk food and figures that’s just the way he is and so he gets fat; another is drawn to drink and becomes a drunk; a third can think of nothing but other women, and ends up losing his lawful wife and his children; a young man, poisoned by the oft-repeated siren call of “toxic masculinity”, decides he is really a woman; married people feel like they are not reaching their full potential with their spouse and imagine they are free to go elsewhere; priests and religious hit the desert after the honeymoon of seminary or noviciate, and lo and behold, they discover a so-called vocation to marriage, etc….
All have in common that they are guided not by reason, faith and divine inspiration, but by feelings. But human beings are meant to be guided by reason which enlightens the will, which in turn imposes restrictions on the lower faculties of the soul. When reason reigns as a king in the individual, and when we have more and more people who live that way, then we have communities and societies that are heading towards the beautiful ideal that Pope Pius XI had in mind when he instituted this feast, and which can be expressed in the beautiful verses of the hymn of Lauds:
How trebly blessed is the land/ Obedient unto Christ’s command,/ which urges laws that prove the worth/ Of heavenly edicts here on earth!
There married faith is kept secure;/ There ripening youth is ever pure;/ and modest households flourish, fair/ With sweet and homely virtues, there.
On this feast, then, let us pray for the true reign of Christ the King, for the Church to get back to teaching the nations the truth of Christ and for the nations to listen to her voice. But let’s not forget that we first have to allow Jesus to reign in our individual lives, and no longer sway like a reed with every wind, but stand firm in the profession of the true faith in loving submission to the sweet yoke of Christ. May that day come, may it come quickly. Viva Christo Rey!