23 Nov What Kind of King is Christ?
by Catherine Doherty
In this time of elections in the U.S. and other political upheavals, it is good to remember that we have a King who is infinitely more powerful than the most powerful secular ruler on earth.
What kind of king is Christ? In our mentality, democratic or otherwise, even in America, a king is a person of splendor. We see movies of the queen being crowned in England, and we are awed by all the trappings, or we don’t like the trappings as the case may be, but they are there. They go with kings.
But there is no denying that there aren’t enough trappings in the whole world to symbolize, illustrate, or express, the kingship of Christ.
What kind of king is Christ? He is a king who came to serve. Listen. Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Mt 8:20). I lay down my life for my sheep (Jn 10:15).
We enter into a strange paradox. This ideal—the king as one who serves—was the ideal of kingship in the Middle Ages. Of course, it wasn’t always implemented because kings are sinners like everyone else.
But at Christmastime we sing a carol about Good King Wenceslaus. Well, King Wenceslaus was the kind of king that people idealized at one time. And if all the kings were like King Wenceslaus and other saintly kings like St. Edward of England, we probably wouldn’t have democracy. But, of course, very few kings are saints.
Christ’s kingship is one of love. And so awesome is his kingship, so immense, so powerful! He is the creator of all things. We exist only because he created us and holds us on the palm of his hand.
His power is as unlimited as infinity, as long as eternity, as unweighable as immensity. It has no beginning or end, and it is so terrific and so awesome that man, if he saw it in his mortal body, would die. For if we saw just one of his attributes as it is, we would see God himself.
We use the word “king” to express this power, but it is a puny human word, this word “king.” What is a king? A king is a mortal man who at one time had the power of life and death over his subjects.
The word “king” is just a picayune little word that shouldn’t even be used, in a sense, to describe Christ. But we use it because our vocabulary is so puny.
We have no word to express the power, the creativeness, the immensity, the awesomeness of the Ruler of the Universe. So, since it’s the only word we have, we use it to approximate.
The Church tells us that we are a “kingly” people. So how does this word, “king” apply to us? To answer that, we have to look at our Head. Have we got powers like he has? No. I can squash an ant, but I can’t squash it without the permissive will of God. Everything I do, every breath I take, I can only do by the permissive will of God.
So, by ourselves, we are not kings at all. We are puny creatures who owe everything, even our breath, to God.
But we’ve got something else. We’ve got a Head, and from that head flows the kingship of the Head. So in the Mystical Body of Christ—which is you and I and every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the Church—we are a kingly people, if we don’t stand in the way of the King’s actions.
We are a kingly people because Christ died on a cross to make us his brothers and sisters. If I am the sister of a king, I am a kingly person. We are kings because we are sons and daughters of his Father. He made us so. He made us heirs of God. So our kingship, like everything else, comes back to the Head.
How should we exercise it? We should take the virtues of kings, not their sins. We don’t go around saying, “I am a kingly person. Out of my way, you jerk. Make way for me. Why do you want to talk to me? You have to have an ambassador to talk to me.” Oh, no. That is not the kind of kingship Christ means.
He means the kingship that King Wenceslaus tried to imitate. And St. Louis of France, and St. Edward of England, and other canonized kings.
St. Louis wore a hair shirt under his ermines and silks and satins. He had a beautiful room, which was well-equipped with a comfortable bed for himself and his wife. They both slept on the floor. And he considered himself a servant of all his subjects.
We are a kingly people. We are like our Head. We must never forget that kingly blood flows in us and act accordingly. There is a saying, Noblesse Oblige. Nobility obliges. It means that a certain rank demands certain actions.
There are certain things a soldier cannot do without losing face. There are certain things a well-bred woman cannot do without losing status. There are certain things that we, too, must do or not do because we are a kingly people.
We must show to the world what our King wants of us and who he is. Humble. Meek. A servant of all. We must love, for he is love. And he died for those he loves.
We can lay down our life in one fell swoop for our fellow man, and if we do, great will be our reward. Or we can die to ourselves at every moment by loving and serving our brothers and sisters. Our standard is very high—as high as the cross against a darkened sky.
That is our throne. We have a King whose throne was a cross. These may seem like hard words, but do we want to cut ourselves off from that body? How are we going to sit on his throne if we do that? We will just be dead bodies.
We are the Mystical Body of Christ, and our Head was crucified. His throne was a cross.
If we go into this kingly aspect of the Mystical Body of Christ and its members, then the world will recognize Christ as a King. Because there will be no difficulty, no obstacles for the Head to work through us, and we will produce fruits. And men will know what true kingship is.
His name is God, and his other name is Love. We are a kingly people. Our throne is a cross and our life is love poured out in service. These are the attributes of our King.
Adapted from an unpublished manuscript, the transcript of spiritual reading, December 6, 1963.