Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christ the King 2006

What is Kingship in Christ and therefore in us? To serve!

“One element seems to stand out in the midst of all these riches: the sharing in Christ’s kingly mission, that is to say the fact of rediscovering in oneself and others the special dignity of our vocation that can be described as `kingship.’ This dignity is expressed in readiness to serve, in keeping with the example of Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.’ If, in the light of this attitude of Christ’s, `being a king’ is truly possible only by `being a servant,’ then `being a servant’ also demands so much spiritual maturity that it must really be described as `being a king.’ In order to be able to serve others worthily and effectively we must be able to master ourselves, possess the virtues that make this mastery possible. Our sharing in Christ’s kingly mission – His `kingly function’ (munus) – closely lined with every sphere of both Christian and human morality…. It is precisely the principle of the `kingly service’ that imposes on each one of us, in imitation of Christ’s example, the duty to demand of himself exactly what we have been called to, what we have personally obliged ourselves to by God’s grace, in order to respond to our vocation.”[1]

The Dynamic of Kingship must first be exercised in the self as "self-mastery.” This is Kingship. It is also freedom. Only he who can master self owns self, and is therefore capable of the gift of self, since you can’t give what you don’t have. The following is the anthropological dynamic of John Paul II:

“In Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, we read that "the human being, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" (24)….

As said elsewhere on the blog, "in the experience of self-determination the human person stands revealed before us as a distinctive structure of self-possession and self-governance. Neither the one nor the other, however, implies being closed in on oneself. On the contrary, both self-possession and self-governance imply a special disposition to make a "gift of oneself," and this a "disinterested" gift. Only if one possesses oneself can one give oneself and do this in a disinterested way. And only if one governs oneself can one make a gift of oneself, and this again a disinterested gift. The problematic of disinterestedness certainly deserves a separate analysis, which it is not my intention to present here. An understanding of the person in categories of gift, which the teaching of Vatican II reemphasizes, seems to reach even more deeply into those dimensions brought to light by the foregoing analysis. Such an understanding seems to disclose even more fully the personal structure of self-determination.

Only if one can determine oneself—as I attempted to show earlier—can one also become a gift for others. The Council's statement that "the human being...cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" allows us to conclude that it is precisely when one becomes a gift for others that one most fully becomes oneself. This "law of the gift," if it may be so designated, is inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of the person. The text of Vatican II certainly draws its inspiration from revelation, in the light of which it paints this portrait of the human being as a person. One could say that this is a portrait in which the person is depicted as a being willed by God "for itself" and, at the same time, as a being turned "toward" others. This relational portrait of the person, however, necessarily presupposes the immanent (and indirectly "substantial") portrait that unfolds before us from an analysis of the personal structure of self-determination….

I have attempted, however, even in this short presentation, to stress the very real need for a confrontation of the metaphysical view of the person that we find in St. Thomas and in the traditions of Thomistic philosophy with the comprehensive experience of the human being. Such a confrontation will throw more light on the cognitive sources from which the Angelic Doctor derived his metaphysical view. The full richness of those sources will then become visible. At the same time, perhaps we will better be able to perceive points of possible convergence with contemporary thought, as well as points of irrevocable divergence from it in the interests of the truth about reality.”[2]

In a word, one can become ipse Christus-Rex by the exercise of self-mastery whereby one exercises kingship over self and therefore freedom: “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share I his freedom."[3] It is the same dynamic that is the mediation of priesthood: mediation by self-mastery, self-possession, self-gift.

1) Christ is King: “`Art thou the king of the Jews?’” Jesus answered, `Dost thou say this of thyself, or have others told thee of me?’ Pilate answered, `Am I a Jew? Thy own people and the chief priests have delivered thee to me. What hast thou done?’ Jesus answered, `My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my followers would have fought that I might not be delivered to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to him, `Thou are then a king?’ Jesus answered, `Thou sayest it; I am a king. This is why I was born and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’ Pilate said to him, `What is truth?’” (Jn. 18, 34-38).

2) His Kingdom is neither here nor there but within: “Then if anyone say to you, `Behold, here is the Christ,’ or, `There he is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they say to you, `Behold, he is in the desert,’ do not go forth; `Behold, he is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Mt. 24, 23-28).

3) Origen: “The kingdom of God, in the words of our Lord and Savor, does not come for all to see; nor shall they say: Behold, here it is, or behold, there it is; but the kingdom of God is within us, for the word of God is very near, in our mouth and in our heart. Thus it is clear that he who prays for the coming of God’s kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it may grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in each of his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present in the perfect soul, and with him Christ reigns, according to the words: We shall come to him and make our home with him.
“Thus the kingdom of God is within us, as we continue to make progress, will reach its highest point when the Apostle’s words are fulfilled, and Christ, having subjected all his enemies to himself, will hand over his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all. Therefore, let us pray unceasingly with that disposition of soul which the Word may make divine, saying to our Father who is in heaven: Hallowed be your name; you kingdom come….
“Therefore, if we wish God to reign in us, in no way should sin reign in our mortal body; rather we should mortify our members which are upon the earth and bear fruit in the Spirit. There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with his Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And he will sit there until all his enemies who are within us become his footstool, and every principality, power and virtue in us is cast out.”

4) St. Josemaria Escriva: August 7, 19031: “Et si exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum” (Jn. 12, 32): “Y el concept preciso: no es en el sentido en que lo dice la Escritura: te lo digo en el sentido de que me pongais en lo alto de todas las actividades humanas; que, en todos los lugares del mundo,haya cristianos, con una dedicacion personally liberrima, que sean otros Cristos.” The point: Christ reigns in all human activities by the conversion of each person – by the gift of self in the exercise of ordinary work – to become “another Christ.”

5) The Kingdom of God:

a) The Kingdom is intimately connected with the Person of Jesus Christ.

“Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: `Above all… the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came `to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk. 10, 45).’ The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 27).”[5]

b) Jesus Christ alone is not the Kingdom, but without Him, there is no Kingdom. “The mystery of the holy Church is manifest in its very foundation. The Lord Jesus set it on its course by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Kingdom of God, which, for centuries, had been promised in the Scriptures: `The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.’ In the word in the works, and in the presence of Christ, this kingdom was clearly open to the view of men. The Word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear the Word with faith and become part of the little flock of Christ, have received the Kingdom itself. The, by its own power the seed sprouts and grows until harvest time. The Miracles of Jesus also confirm that the Kingdom has already arrived on earth: `If I cast out devils by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’ Before all things, however, the Kingdom is clearly visible in the very Person of Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, who came `to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many…. From this source the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoles the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with al its strength, hoes and desires to be united in glory with its King’’[6]

c) The Church is not the Kingdom, but the Body of Christ who is the Head. Christ, alone, is not the Kingdom, and therefore the Church, alone, is not the Kingdom as the Body of the Whole Christ, of which the Person of Christ is the Head. However, she is the sacrament of the Kingdom.

“Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. Christ endowed the Church, his body, with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, enlivens her with his gifts and charisms, sanctifies, guides and constantly renews her. The result is a unique and special relationship which, while not excluding the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries, confers upon her a specific and necessary role; hence the Church’s special connection with the kingdom of God and of Christ, which she has `the mission of announcing and inaugurating among all peoples.”[7]

The Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom: (the call to conversion).

“The Church is effectively and concretely at the service of the kingdom. This is seen especially I her preaching, which is a call to conversion. Preaching constitutes the Church’s first and fundamental way of serving the coming of the kingdom in individuals and in human society. Eschatological salvation begins even now in newness of life in Christ: `To all who believed in him, who believed in his name, he have power to become children of God’ (Jn. 1, 12).
“The Church then serves the kingdom by establishing communities and founding new particular churches, and by guiding them to mature faith and charity in openness toward others, in service to individuals and society, and in understanding and esteem for human institutions.
“The Church serves the kingdom by spreading throughout the world the `gospel values’ which are an expression of the kingdom and which help people to accept God’s plan. It is true that the inchoate reality of the kingdom can also be found beyond the confines of the Church among peoples everywhere, to the extent that they live `gospel values’ and are open to the working of the Spirit who breathes when and where he wills (cf. Jn. 3, 8). But it must immediately be added that this temporal dimension of the kingdom remains incomplete unless it is related to the kingdom of Christ present in the Church and straining towards eschatological fullness.”

Twelfth Station of the Cross of Cardinal Ratzinger:

“In Greek and Latin, the two international languages of the time, and in Hebrew, the language of the Chosen People, a sign stood above the Cross of Jesus, indicating who he was: the King of the Jews, the promised Son of David. Pilate, the unjust judge, became a prophet despite himself. The kingship of Jesus was proclaimed before all the world. Jesus himself had not accepted the title "Messiah", because it would have suggested a mistaken, human idea of power and deliverance. Yet now the title can remain publicly displayed above the Crucified Christ. He is indeed the king of the world. Now he is truly "lifted up". In sinking to the depths he rose to the heights. Now he has radically fulfilled the commandment of love, he has completed the offering of himself, and in this way he is now the revelation of the true God, the God who is love. Now we know who God is. Now we know what true kingship is. Jesus prays Psalm 22, which begins with the words: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:2). He takes to himself the whole suffering people of Israel, all of suffering humanity, the drama of God's darkness, and he makes God present in the very place where he seems definitively vanquished and absent. The Cross of Jesus is a cosmic event. The world is darkened, when the Son of God is given up to death. The earth trembles. And on the Cross, the Church of the Gentiles is born. The Roman centurion understands this, and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God. From the Cross he triumphs ­ ever anew.”


(From Dominus Iesus:” V. The Church: Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Christ)

“The mission of the Church is `to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.’ On the one hand, the Church is `a sacrament – that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity of the entire human race.’ She is therefore the sign and instrument of the kingdom; she is called to announce and to establish the kingdom. On the other hand, the Church is the `people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit;’ she is therefore `the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery’ and constitutes it seed and beginning. The kingdom of God, in fact, has an eschatological dimension: it is a reality presenting time, but its full realization will arrive only with the completion or fulfillment of history.

“The meaning of the expressions kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, and kingdom of Christ in Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, as well as in the documents of the Magisterium is not always exactly the same, nor is their relationship to the Church, which is a mystery that cannot be totally contained by a human concept. Therefore, there can be various theological explanations of these terms. However, none of these possible explanations can deny or empty in any way the intimate connection between Christ, the kingdom, and the Church. In fact, the kingdom of God which we know from revelation `cannot be detached either from Christ or from the Church… If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor. 15, 27). Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both.’

“19. To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God – even if considered in its historical phase – is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. In fact, `the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries’ must not be excluded. Therefore, one must also bear in mind that `the kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God’s activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God’s plan of salvation in all its fullness.’

“In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided accentuations, as is the case with those `conceptions which deliberately emphasize the kingdom and which describe themselves as `kingdom centered.’ They stress the image of a Church which is not concerned about herself, but which is totally concerned with bearing witness to and serving the kingdom. It is a `Church for others,’ just as Christ is the `man for others’… Together with positive aspects, these conceptions often reveal negative aspects as well. First, they are silent about Christ: the kingdom of which they speak is `theocentrically’ based, since, according to them, Christ cannot be understood by those who lack Christian faith, whereas different peoples, cultures, and religions are capable of finding common ground n the one divine reality, by whatever name it is called. For the same reason, they put great stress on the mystery of creation, which is reflected in the diversity of cultures and beliefs, but they keep silent about the mystery of redemption. Furthermore, the kingdom, as they understand it, ends up either leaving very little room for the Church or undervaluing the Church in reaction to a presumed `ecclesiocentrism’ of the past and because they consider the Church herself only a sign, for that matter a sing not without ambiguity.’ These theses are contrary to Catholic faith because they deny the unicity of the relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God.”

The Kingdom of Christ Within and the Secular, Civic Order

The topic of Christ the King cuts much closer to the notion of secularity than to the notion of Christendom. Christianity, and concretely Catholicism, is not a “religion of the Book” as an ideological and conceptual character that imposes itself politically. The kingship of Christ that takes place interiorly as self-mastery, self-gift will tend to produce a consciousness of the dignity of the human person and human rights that is the ground and foundation of democratic secularity.
This seems to be the very phenomenon that takes place in the text of Genesis where Adam, in naming the animals, which is an exercise of mastery and kingship, crosses the threshold of being an individual to the consciousness of being “alone” in that he had entered into the experience of subjectivity. To be subject, to be king and to be alone in a world of objects is all of one piece. Hence, by exercising this kingship of self-mastery in the act of obedience that is faith will produce a civic, secular political order rather than theocracy.

[1] Redemptor Hominis #21.
[2] Karol Wojtyla, “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination “ in Person and Community Lang (1993) 193-195.This paper was presented by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla at an international conference on St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and Naples, 17-24 April 1974.
[3] Veritatis Splendor #85.
[4] Origen, “On Prayer” Cap. 25; PG 11, 495-499.
[5] Redemptor Missio, #19.
[6] Lumen Gentium # 5.
[7] Redemptoris Missio #19.
[8] Ibid. #20.
[9] Dominus Iesus #18-19.

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