Tag Archive | unity

Christ the King

The festival of ‘Christ the King’ was last week, the last Sunday of the liturgical year so, like Simchat Torah, the church year ends on a joyous note, looking forward to a time when the Kingdom will be fully realised, where there will finally be peace and justice, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The feast of Christ the King encourages Christians to live under the kingship of Christ in our lives now.

“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”

Being relatively new to the liturgical church, I had assumed that the Feast of ‘Christ the King’ was an ancient tradition but in fact  it is less than 100 years old, and is not celebrated widely by denominations other than Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican. It was only instituted (by Pope Pius XI) in 1925 and only set as the last Sunday before Advent as recently as 1970, and was conceived specifically to address encroaching secularism.

Nevertheless it seems to me to be a very nice way to end the liturgical year.

Readings this year (ending year C) were:

Psalms:  Psalm 46
OT: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Gospel: Luke 23:33-43
Epistles: Colossians 1:11-20

“Eternal Father, whose son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as lord and king, keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”

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Isaiah 62:1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
    and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
    a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
    or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
    and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
    and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
    so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you.


I looked again and realised that of course the connection between Isaiah 62:1-5 and the Wedding at Cana, is of course the last verse which talks about being married!

This passage was obviously referring to the literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the land of Israel when it was written, but it has traditionally been understood by Christian theologians as prophetically referring rather to the Church, on the basis of New Testament references (Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 14:1) which allude to a metaphorical, spirtual New Jerusalem.

In Messianic Jewish thought, a more literal interpretation makes more sense, with one exception – that the Bridgroom in question is Christ, God Himself. So in other words – whatever your view on the identity of Israel and the Church in Christianity – God ‘marries’ himself to His people, being an unbreakable, eternal Covenant.

“Whom God joins together, let no man put asunder.”

Going back to the Wedding at Cana, Christ can then be understood as mystically symbolising the eternal Bridgroom.

But the passage goes on to say that the righteousness of Zion (the people of God) will shine out like the dawn, that the nations will see her righteousness, that the LORD will delight in her and that she will be called by a new name.

Is this ‘new name’ possibly an allusion to the people of God becoming known as ‘Christians’? Is it just referring to the names Beulah (married) and Hephzibah (‘My delight is in her’?) Or is it some future epithet that we haven’t yet encountered?

How and when will this prophecy be fulfilled? When will the righteousness of Christians shine forth so brilliantly that the nations and the kings cannot but help be impressed by it?

In Ephesians 3:24 we are given a glimpse of a time when the Church reaches unity, being ‘mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ and Ephesians 5:27 alludes to a glorious Church, without spot or blemish.

Must the Church accomplish this unity, maturity and purity by her own efforts? Thankfully, no. We are back again at the Wedding of Cana, where Mary draws our attention to the need for God’s Holy Spirit to ferment our ‘water’ and turn it into ‘wine’.

Track back to the passage in Ephesians 5, and you will see that the Bridgroom is able to accomplish this by ‘washing’ her, by the ‘water of the Word’.  How does this work? Jesus says in John 15:3

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

This is the wondrous mystical, mystery of sanctification. We do not achieve it by our own efforts, but by Jesus’ efforts on our behalf.

So as the answer to the question ‘how and when will this prophecy be fulfilled’, it would seem to be another case of the prophecy having multiple fulfillments, or fulfillment in installments: yes, we are “already clean” in theory, so it is a ‘now’ but in practice, we are not so unified, mature or purified; so it is also ‘not yet’. This is something that is very common in Hebraic thinking, where the two possibilities seem to be opposite and apparently contradictory: the Hebrew mind, in opposition to the Greek linear logical way of thinking, is able to accept the seeming contradiction, and hold it in a tension.

With regard to what these difficult terms – ‘clean’, ‘pure’ and ‘righteous’ actually signify, that is the topic for another post!