We, in the 21st century, may well find the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe more than a bit confusing. Our notion of what a king is or should be does not fit what the Church puts before us.
I'm still catching up on the first four seasons, but I've really enjoyed watching "The Crown." To me, the mix of history, personality, and morality play is completely engaging. So much so that I find myself Googling all things British after almost every episode.
As Americans, we're at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to royalty. The revolution by which we won our independence, after all, was a distinctively anti-royal revolution. It wasn't that our Founding Fathers wanted a better king to take the place of George III. They imagined a country with no king at all. It was to this vision that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
This essence of our identity and history means that understanding the concept of a sovereign is a stretch for us. Ironically, a character of English literary giant J.R.R. Tolkien may represent the best expression of how we Americans see the world. In the film rendition of "The Lord of the Rings," Boromir speaks about the stewardship of the most prominent kingdom of men in Middle-earth. He summarizes the state of things with astonishing bluntness: "Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king."
While most nations have ditched their royalty entirely, the United Kingdom has kept theirs in place. But watching "The Crown," it seems that royal sovereigns are no longer what they used to be. Elizabeth II was taught to rise above politics, and refrain from expressing -- perhaps even holding -- any opinions regarding policy. She understood her purpose and role as one aimed at guarding national unity and preserving the constitution that limited her power. As such, the British Sovereign doesn't seem very sovereign at all. Their monarch is, in fact, a figurehead. It is the Parliament that governs. Charles III now reigns, but he does not, and by design cannot, rule.
We, in the 21st century, may well find the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe more than a bit confusing. Our notion of what a king is or should be does not fit what the Church puts before us. Our king has no successor. His reign is eternal. His kingdom, everlasting. But he does not serve merely to inspire or unify; nor does he defer to the will of his subjects. This king rules. His power is not limited, but absolute. He does not withdraw from the fray but acts in the complete solidarity of the Incarnation. He is not a constitutional monarch. His will is the highest law of the realm. And his sovereignty extends across the entirety of the universe. Everything belongs to him. Everyone is his. God is not a symbol of anything, but the creator and Father of all. And Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Father in glory.
Most of us aren't very comfortable with the idea of an absolute ruler. Perhaps that is why it often seems that we, too, would prefer a parliament to Christ enthroned. That is not, however, what the Church is intended to be. The kingdom of God does not have a parliament or prime minister. Nor does it need one. The kingdom has and needs only its king.
In the liturgy, we seek to give our king the praise and glory that is due to him: nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. God does not need our worship to be what he is. But we need to worship him to become what he intends for us to be -- not mere subjects, but children. That is possible only because the law of this kingdom is love.
The beginning and end of time converge at the feet of Christ enthroned. That is why we end the Church year here, at the threshold of his rule. In the weeks ahead, we will begin the whole story of our salvation again. As we do, let us marvel at the love which leapt from glory and emptied itself to open not only the gates of the kingdom, but the heart of the king to us.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.