Ave Christus Rex (Hail Christ the King), Baritus Catholic.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him,
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43.
Today’s solemnity marks the end of the church’s year. Next Sunday we start to prepare for the Christmas event, the start of a new cycle. That being so, the readings last week gazed upon the end time, the Last Judgement and the goal towards which all good Christians strive. Today we have an image of kingship as the focus of all that is: “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell.” But the gospel has what we might all consider to be the absolute polar opposite of kingship, with Jesus crucified before a braying crowd. Yet is it the opposite, or is it the ultimate statement of kingship as servant? Consider the ancient ceremony of coronation, or crowning of a sovereign. At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953, the following took place, with the polar opposite juxtaposed here. The first event was the formal recognition of this woman as “your undoubted Queen” to which the gathering respond “God save the Queen”. [On the cross was the statement “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” Mark says the crowd taunted “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from that cross”]. The most sacred part of the coronation service was the anointing of the Queen. [Jesus was anointed at his baptism by the Holy Spirit, at which moment he became the Anointed One, Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek]. The Queen was clothed in cloth of gold, “Receive this Imperial Robe and the Lord your God endue you with knowledge and wisdom”. [Mark says Jesus was clothed “in a purple cloak’ by Roman soldiers who mocked him]. The Queen received a spectacular gold and diamond-encrusted scepter “the ensign of kingly power and justice”. [Matthew says the Roman soldiers “put a reed in his right hand”]. Then the Queen was crowned, “God crown you with a crown of glory and righteousness” and the gathering in the Abbey shouted “God save Queen Elizabeth”. [Matthew and Mark both state that the Roman soldiers “plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head” and then kneeled in front of him and mocked him as the King of the Jews, and spat on him and took the reed and hit him with it]. The crowned queen was then enthroned. [Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross, the throne of Christ the King]. It is almost as if the coronation ceremony had been modeled on the crucifixion itself.
So in every respect, Jesus’ “coronation” concluded his mission on earth when he became the King of the Universe, as the church states today, and died enthroned and crowned, to reign forever. It was the final example of his role as servant, demonstrating to us the ultimate and sacred duty we all have to be loyal and true to God and God’s divine teaching. In forgiving those who had done that to him, Jesus became our numinous model of perfect duty to the end, with his total belief in God’s goodness and loyalty, despite every indication to the contrary. So too with us; through whatever adversity we may encounter, our trust and reliance on God must remain imperishable in the sure knowledge that as God’s true children, at the end we will be received into eternity as God’s faithful servants.
Christ the King, Monastery Icons.
Reflections on the following Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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