I used to think that this feast was something that had been celebrated from the early days of Christianity. In fact its origin is much more recent and goes back to the earlier part of the last century; 1925 in fact, when the world had not long emerged from the horrors of the First World War and was as yet unaware that it was standing on the precipice of another. The previous years had shaken the age-old institutions to their foundations. It was a time of questioning and insecurity where people were looking back to the previous years of devastation with anguish and disbelief that it had actually happened and were unable to comprehend that it might just happen all over again. It was a time of personal upheaval and political unrest with a lot of parallels to the turmoil of today’s world where Europe is becoming more destabilized, Brexit is looming, and so many feel afraid of what the future might hold. It was to remind the people of God that Pope Pius II tried to remind everyone that even though Jesus Kingdom was not of this world yet he was the light that would conquer the darkness and he would one day reign supreme over all creation. The fact that the forces of evil cannot and will not prevail and that Christ has already won the victory is something that we all need to hear over and over again especially when our faith is being put to the test. The real test today is not the persecution of an earlier age but rather of remaining faithful in a faithless and indifferent age where moral neutrality is becoming the norm.
When we think of Christ as King he literally turns on its head everything we associate with Kingship. All our traditional notions of royalty have to go out the window in relation to him as King. Some artists have tried to depict him in such a worldly manner along with a crown of gold a royal scepter and a kingly robe. However the reality is that:
He didn’t choose a crown of gold but rather a crown of thorns.
Instead of royal robes he wore a loin cloth
Instead of loving power he choose the power of love
Instead of strength he was content to be considered weak.
Instead of ruling over others he choose the way of service
Instead of a reigning on a throne he hung from a cross.
Instead of violence he always opted for the way of peace.
Instead of excluding anyone he included everyone.
Instead of glory he accepted humiliation.
Instead of victory he accepted defeat.
Instead of being full of himself he emptied himself.
Instead of vengeance on his executioners he offered forgiveness.
And so it was as St Paul so beautifully says: Though he was in the form of God, Christ did not cling to his equality with God. Instead he emptied himself and took the form of a slave. And having emptied himself God raised him up and gave him the name that is above all other names so that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father. The age-old hymn put that truth another way when we are invited to sing:
Hail redeemer King Divine.
Priest and lamb the throne is thine.
King whose reign shall never cease,
Prince of everlasting peace.