The solemnity of Christ the King has long been one of my special feasts, ever since boarding school and the procession. It is a relatively new feast in the Church, instituted only about 100 years ago by Pope Pius XI, in response to increasing secularism and nationalism of the time, which have undoubtedly continued in the 21st century. In my ministry of song, choosing an appropriate daily hymn for us to sing, pray and reflect on we have nevertheless discovered how the understanding of Jesus Christ as King has existed for centuries, in fact from the moment of his Crucifixion. Pope Francis referred to this in his homily while on visit to his family’s hometown. “We go back to the roots of our faith on this day, when we gaze upon Jesus, the Crucified One, who by His death, gave us eternal life. The sign above the cross, “This is the King of the Jews,” turns the human idea of a king on its head, as we imagine the majesty and power that comes with kingship, whereas here we see the Lord who “appears as a slave executed by those in power.”
Here are some of the hymns which I selected at this time. O worship the king all glorious above.(18th century) Hail redeemer king divine. (20th century). At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow (19th ) Christ is our king let the whole world rejoice (20th ) All hail the power of Jesus’ name, (18th ) Others also included the November focus on death and eternal life. The church’s one foundation (19th) Praise my soul the king of heaven. (19th) Praise to the Lord, the almighty the king of creation. (17th cent)
Many of these hymns – and plenty of others – also include mention of creation, of the poor, of oppression, of saints and sinners, prophets and martyrs. Some of the lyrics are old-fashioned, some maybe too modern and folksy, but there is a wealth of theology and expressions of faith buried there to be explored and adopted even for family use, although we, Catholics, tend only to sing hymns in church. Why do I raise the topic of hymns? Because song is a powerful prayer, catechesis even, – if we focus on the words.
Having become a member of the Laudato Si Action Platform, Family sector, I find it meaningful to use and try to apply the 7 LSAP goals. Most of them are relevant for kingship, but in the light of COP27 I was reflecting on Economic ecology and adopting a sustainable lifestyle. During 2022 monarchy has featured quite prominently in parts of the world. here was the 60th Jubilee and later the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession to the throne of King Charles III, her son. In South Africa the Zulu monarchy had a more conflictual ride, with finally the coronation of King Misuzulu ka Zwelithini attended by 1000s of his subjects and many dignitaries. What elements of kingship emerge for us? Do these personages and events portray something of the image of kingship that Jesus did portray and still promotes for us for the growth of his kingdom on earth? Pope Francis stressed Jesus’ love, dressed only with nails and thorns, stripped of everything yet rich in love with open arms from His throne on the Cross. His embrace, his mercy, his always forgiving.
Looking back on COP 27 and from the perspective of ecological economics and sustainable living (goals 3 and 4 we are encouraged to trade and invest ethically and divest from fossil fuel and promote sustainable energy systems and a circular economy. We are invited to examine our own and our family lifestyles and to reduce, recycle, reuse and refuse. Developing curricula for schools and catechesis too that are eco-family friendly and encouraging the ideal of sufficiency and sobriety, cutting down on meat and changing to more plant-based diets.
There could be a danger in working towards the goals without alongside these “secular” acts encouraging an ecological spirituality. In too many cases, in society environmental awareness does not include that aspect, ignoring the moral and ethical as well as relishing the wonder and joy in the beauty of creation. Starting from home, simple prayer and cultivating the spirit of wonder, praise, joy and gratitude would in itself do wonders for family relationships.
Family leads on to parish, school and other forms of community. This is the locus for evangelization, for reading the signs of the times but also keeping up with the times and using the opportunities of the liturgical seasons. Celebrating Christ the King speaks of kingship but also of the end times when Jesus will “deliver all things to the Father so that God may be everything to everyone.” LS100.
I was invited to spend the feast of Christ the King at a parish in Orange Farm and while I enjoyed the lively liturgy I have not learnt local languages sufficiently well to be able to follow. So I came home to sing and pray my own special music for the feast. “Hail Redeemer King Divine……… Angels saints and nations sing, praised be Jesus Christ our King, Lord of Life, earth, sky and sea, King of Love on Calvary.”
“Today, as Jesus, naked on the Cross, unveils God and destroys every false image of His kingship, let us look to Him and thus find the courage to look at ourselves, to follow the path of confident trust and intercession, and to make servants of ourselves, in order to reign with Him.”
MARFAM’s resources are noted and posted on www.marfam.org.za. DAILY THOUGHTS are posted in the media. An Advent booklet LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS TIME is available and the 2023 FAMILY YEAR PLANNER will also be available shortly to continue to promote an eco-spirituality of family life. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 23 NOVEMBER 2022