Thoughts for the Feast of Christ the King

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 He is before all things,
and in Him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through Him to reconcile all things for Him,
making peace by the blood of His cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Colossians 1:16

 

In His divine humanity Christ is one of us but without sin.  In His cosmic divinity, while remaining incarnate, He is present in the heart of the Father even while in every moment of time He is the word through whom the worlds were made.  He is present personally in the Eucharist, and by His living and present power He is present throughout creation. He is present in the scientist’s true formula and the philosopher’s right reason.   His glory shines wherever there is beauty, the beauty of a human face or of Mozart or of Bernini or of a summer’s day, wherever there is charity or any virtue.  He is particularly present where evil is being borne and temptation resisted.
            It is a great scandal to Satan’s cosmopolitan mind that in a world full of so many peoples, so many ideas, so many loyalties, it is Jesus alone who is the image of the invisible God.  In Him, in the Word, all things hold together. He has no competitors, and this in part because whatever is true of human experience lives in Him. Whatever is true in humanism, in Islam, in Judaism, exists in Him, while if any of these pretend to universality or even sufficiency, they become idolatries, false gods.   There may be some truth in everything, but nothing is true but Christ. 

 It is the grand illusion of the human race that we are the sole and active agents in creation and in our destiny, when in effect we share a borrowed power, and exist moment by moment by the will of another.  It is by His gift that we live and move. In Him all things hold together. He is the cause of causality, the source of just individuation, the perfection of every perfect thing insofar as it is perfect.     

And without Him all things fall apart.  While He cannot be driven from creation and He wills not to stop the beating heart even as it rebels. But the divinely willed stability of nature provides no morally neutral ground. For where Christ is,  while through His will and power e=mc2 and the Pythagorean their will remain stable, there will also be in a world that neglects Christ and His truth the incessant importunings of Satan, hidden at first in equivocation, self-esteem, and pride, but increasingly unveiled in souls who do not cleave to Christ, until blinded and unknowingly those souls abandon the good and become victims and agents of evil.   

It is the persistent lie of the world that Christ is an optional enrichment, one among many alternatives.  It is the claim of those He sent that He is the way and the truth and that none comes to God by any way other than Christ and His cross.     True, the modern world proposes its alternatives to the scandal of Christ. Beginning with the dispiriting lie that humankind is not only good but unflawed, the proposal is that we must develop a community of natural kindness. This is the humanitarian religion whose victory Newman foresaw in his Biglietto Speech of 1879.  This new religion was developed through Modernism and the New Theology of the Edwardian era, until it became the presupposition of religion in the 1960s. It proposes to obviate the pain of life and in the attempt to do so destroys life’s adventure. Its political form is socialism, its philosophy is cynicism and despair of the truth, its religion modernism, which directs imagination away from God and toward the melioration of the human condition.  Winston Churchill described it as “the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”   

Secularism, this-age-ism, may take many forms, but like Christianity secularism has its revealed principles, and while it has a philosophy and an economic policy, in its origin and for its power it depends upon faith that this world is what is, all  that is. A secular world is one that cries out for government solutions as a faithless people find the vicissitudes of freedom unmanageable. Then it is easy to put one’s faith in Big Brother, and then follows the belief ; that mankind, having failed to become brotherly and disinterested under the influence of Christ, after a long and painful tutelage under an absolute authorianism, their natural goodness finally revealed,  may become virtuous according to the Socialist pattern; and that there is a race of men, vastly different from the ordinary sinners depicted in the daily newspaper as they are carried off for peculation, abuse, and prevarication, and the common consequences of lust and greed; a race justly capable of planning the future, assigning employments, and distributing resources, to whom the development of a future without risk, pain, or fear may be confidently assigned.  Then, having been unwilling to bow the knee at the name of Jesus, every back will bend beneath the knout and the whip that invariably accompany the expropriation, murder, and torture that is required to establish the humanitarian state. It is a painful truism that since the great example of Israel’s Babylonian captivity, those who will not have God will be taken into slavery.     

Interestingly enough, one may see from the governments that dominate in much of Asia and some of the Caribbean and South American states, that these regimes are established by fear and violence.  Not so the reign of Christ, which in its origin is the kingdom of the heart, which is founded in the mystery of freedom, and which seems to lie defenseless not only before these socialist authoritarianisms but in the face of the moral decay of the great democracies that live in the delusion that one may have justice and freedom without God.   In a very practical way their polities share the principles of Castro and Xi: history is not moving toward the return of Christ but toward the comfortable, pain-free life, a life that summarizes human possibility, which is made available by the state.   

In this situation in which Christ has no army, in which the corporate witness of the Church is weak and confused, the only weapon at hand is the weapon that was available to Christians in the age of Nero, Decius, and Diocletian, their lives.  There are countless lives that by their unwavering faith and exemplary charity testify to the power of Christ. These may be hidden, but there are also heroes, those who dare to receive a family of children as determined by God rather than by reproductive technology.  And there is still individual heroism. One thinks of the priest who dared to deny the body and blood of Jesus to a politician who publicly defends the destruction of little children. And there was this week the Chinese bishop who fled rather than witness to the lawfulness of the official Church. And not long ago a highly placed official made a public speech at a religiously-founded university not noted for unwavering witness in which He denounced the deconstruction of values native to Christianity.  He and his words were condemned as divisive. Christianity is always divisive and is always resented by the secular order which longs for secular peace among a population undisturbed by any idea that rises above the historical horizon. These in their different ways were the witnesses Jesus commanded when He said: you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  

Such witnesses have special importance when the magisterial Church is in disarray, afraid to preach the unique necessity of Jesus—nobody has to believe it but Christian witness hurts feelings, with some notable exceptions lacking the courage to stand up to the sexual revolution, coopted in its humanitarian concerns by the secularists, unclear on the point that holiness is the one thing necessary.  Jesus told us that He had come to bring not peace but the sword, and while we know that the peace He does not promise is secular peace and that the sword is the sword of the Spirit, Christ will always have His army of witnesses, unto the ends of the earth.



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