We are coming to the end of the liturgical year with celebration of the Feast of Christ the King. I have always had trouble with the very language of this feastday, of this particular title of the Lord. Yet it has taught me much, in the end.
The word “king”–what does it mean to you?
I pondered this in detail as I painted an icon of Christ Enthroned several years ago, and think of it again each year as we approach Advent. A king. A ruler. A leader. One who guides his people. A family position, the inheritance of a dynasty. This is, I believe, close to the definition of a king to most of the world.
To me, as an American, since childhood, this word “king” has left me cold. Confused, even. A king is a person in a fairy tale, an imaginary person, wearing a crown and elaborate clothes. He rules his fantasy world. People bow to him, but don’t necessarily love him–he can be either good or evil. He is exalted in the stories–but he is not real.
Further, a ruler/a leader, to me, is a person who is replaced every 4 or 8 years after a bitter battle on TV and in newspapers. The potential leader is subject to complete public scrutiny, with every misdeed, every lie large or small, exposed and ridiculed. The people can accept or reject. They have the power to do the choosing and install the leader.
None of these are fitting descriptions for our wonderful God.
No doubt I am being much too literal in my understanding of this title of Our Savior, but still, this is what this feastday invoked in my thoughts: an insistence on a myth of an unreal God, and of his impermanence. Of course that cannot be true, and thus I grappled from childhood with my gut reaction to this one particular idea. But I think I am finally growing up!
Outside of novels, I still do not relate too well to the idea of monarchy, of royalty, of kings. But I have come to understand this reference to be a wonderful unifying theme for the world. It has made me think outside of the culture I was raised in, and to appreciate that our Church is a universal Church, for all peoples and all times. More than any other teachings or words of our faith, this feastday has brought me to the realization of the true meaning of “catholic”.