Christ the King

LORD of the ages evermore,
Each nation’s King, the wide world o’er,
O Christ, our only Judge thou art,
And Searcher of the mind and heart

Though Sin with rebel voice maintain,
‘We will not have this Christ to reign,’
Far other, Lord shall be our cry,
Who hail thee King of Kings most High.

O thou eternal Prince of peace,
Subdue man’s pride, bid error cease,
Permit not sin to wax o’er-bold,
The strayed bring home within the fold.

For this thou hangedst on the Tree
With arms outstretched in loving plea;
For this thou shewedst forth thy Heart,
On fire with love, pierced by the dart.

And yet that wounded side sheds grace
Forth from the altar’s holy place,
Where, veiled ‘neath humblest bread and wine,
Abides for man the life divine.

Earth’s noblest rulers to thee raise
Their homage due of public praise
Teachers and judges thee confess;
Art, science, law, thy truth express.

Let kings be fain to dedicate
To thee the emblems of their state;
Rule thou each nation from above,
Rule o’er the people’s homes in love.

All praise, King Jesu, be to thee,
The Lord of all in majesty;
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King in the old Western Kalendar. I relized this late and was scrambling this morning to insert propers into a database following the Old Kalendar so they would display correctly. As I typed and read through these texts, the more they spoke to me.

I rose this morning to the news that there have now been three domestic terror attacks within the span of a couple of days fueled by ideological and racial hatred. The secular world can only shake its head and talk about intolerance and the partisan divide. Luckily, I’m a Christian so I have better language: this is evil, caused by sin. More specifically, it is sin empowered and emboldened by the loudest voice in the State.

Ant. 1: This is the true Solomon, † whose Name is the pledge of peace to the whole world, * and the throne of whose kingdom God hath established for evermore.

Now I get that there are some in the Episcopal church who find the language of royalty and kingship challenging. I have heard that this language of dominion can be a retrenchment of patriarchal thought. And yet I find it a comfort and aid this morning as I consider the news.

I am a Christian first.

I put my identity as a follower of Christ before my gender, my race, and—yes—even before my national origin. For me my Baptism is at the heart of my identity. Don’t get me wrong—I am proud to be an American (usually) and am proud to be the son of a veteran from a lineage of veterans. But the words of the Pledge, “and justice for all,” ring hollow when politicians flagrantly disregard them. At those moments, I remember that I am the subject of a Sovereign.

Ant. 3: Behold the Man who is like to the sunrising, † whose Name is The Branch; * he will sit and rule upon his throne, and speak peace unto the nations.

Political systems and movements that play upon racial hatred are anti-Christ. There is no other way to say it.

The propers of Christ the King take the ideas of dominion and lordship and sovereignty, and subvert them in line with the Gospel and the gospels we have been hearing the last few Sundays:

So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

The hymn above emphasizes that kingship was accomplished through the humiliation of the cross and comes to us in the simple forms of bread and wine. Domination and hierarchy are subdued by self-offering. The Lauds hymn is the Vexilla regis which even more emphasizes that the power by Jesus flows from selfless service rather than from might or manipulative rhetoric (“Fulfilled is all that David told/In true prophetic song, of old:/Unto the nations, lo! saith he,/Our God hath reignèd from the Tree”)

The proclamation of Christ as king gives us an alternative and superior political standard that challenges all earthly systems and regimes and powers. Sin and evil and death are put on notice. But we—we the people—have to follow the lead of our true leader.

Chapter at None: For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his Cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, * whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven (Col 1:19).

2 Replies to “Christ the King”

  1. “Old Western Kalendar”?!!
    Christ the King is a very modern addition to
    the Kalendar, completely unknown in pre-Reformation times,
    as a medievalist like you surely recognizes.
    I’ve never heard of its being celebrated at a church that
    is not Roman Catholic or (for some odd reason) Methodist.
    The feast was proclaimed by Pius XI in 1925, not in
    response to any new mystery, doctrine, or miracle, but
    to promote the triumphalist, anti-democratic policies
    of certain European Christian political parties. This view
    condemned “laicism”: the separation of Church and
    State and the principle that civil society should not be subject to the
    authority of the church. The feast was instituted to support a view of
    Church and society which is considered unpalatable by many
    present-day Catholics and I’m sure the vast majority of North
    American Christians. Of course, here in the States we view
    monarchy as a quaint and benevolent, if expensive, ceremonial
    institution, not as a manifestation of the kind of absolute sovereignty
    that Pius XI had in mind. Only the most extreme kind of triumphalist
    Catholics or ultra-Calvinist Reconstructionists really want churches to
    have this kind of power.
    I would suggest that it’s quite natural for religious bodies to 1) be
    conservative in adopting new-fangled holidays, and 2) avoid innovations
    that celebrate ideas that are repugnant to them, even if they are
    supported by the Bishop of Rome, for whom I have the greatest respect.

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