“Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”
In the Church calendar, the days of holy feasts and solemnities go by with dizzying speed. And sometimes the chronology seems disordered. We might wonder, for example, why the Slaughter of the Innocents on December 28th comes before the Epiphany on January 6th. The short span of time from the end of the Christmas Season to the beginning of Lent is, again, dizzying. We are hardly able to absorb the meaning of Good Friday before Saturday evening brings us to the Vigil Mass for Easter Sunday.
However, the arrangement of the Church calendar to end the liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King and to begin the cycle anew one week later with the First Sunday of Advent is highly instructive. For one thing, the first couple of Sundays of Advent are focused not on the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago but His coming again as King of Heaven and Earth. Even as the babe in the manger, He was—as the question of the Wise Men indicates—“born King of the Jews.”
Most of the secular world begins its carol-crooning and “holiday” parties before Thanksgiving and the rest of it no later than Pearl Harbor Day on December 7th. Even those events that still invoke the title “Christmas” make no reference to the One born that day or anything else pertaining to that holy time and place. Has anyone ever heard mention of Christ at the office “Christmas” party?
What do we learn from the Feast of Christ the King? That Christ, with no regal appearance, claimed the kingship that is “not of this world” but includes this world—however much the worldly deny it and refuse it recognition. Soon enough we will again hear Pilate scoff “What is truth?” on Good Friday as well as the words of the ungodly chief priests: “We have no king but Caesar.” If there are more frightening words in all of Scripture, I have not yet found them.
The implications are dreadful for the political and social orders for this is to proclaim that there is nothing in Heaven or on Earth to restrain the power of the State. Caesar controls all. None may resist his omnipotent will. Because Caesar and his legions are long gone, the modern world fails to recognize the threat that “no king but Caesar” poses. We must remember that the feast we celebrated this Sunday past was not the Feast of “Christ the Democrat” but the “Feast of Christ the King.” Tyrants are often ushered in by democracies. “Power to the People,” when not threatening, has a hollow sound. Where do “the people” find their direction? Where is their moral compass? Is Vox populi really Vox Dei—the voice of the people accepted as the voice of God? Opinion polls and focus groups are a poor substitute for True North. Indeed, “True North,” however we perceive it, is a poor substitute for the Word of God and the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church.
Today’s Caesars are not monarchs or emperors but elected officials and their appointed bureaucrats. Thus, while the demand for abortion and other “contraceptive services” was kept out of the language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as it made its way through Congress, a renegade Catholic named Kathleen Sibelius, then the Secretary of Health and Human Services, issued, pursuant to the Act, a regulation known as the “contraceptive mandate.” Even religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor and a family-owned business like Hobby Lobby, whose owners had strong religious scruples against the mandate, were supposed to knuckle under and comply. Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the contrary notwithstanding, even after the bill was passed the nation still didn’t know what was in it. Perhaps the only ones to be surprised were the naïve and easily hoodwinked U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Indeed, we heard not a peep of protest from the Church hierarchy in New Hampshire when then-Governor Jeanne Shaheen signed a similar mandate into law years earlier.
New Hampshire has as its motto—inscribed on its license plates—“Live Free or Die.” Yet we passively accept the dictates of the militantly anti-Christian cultural commissars. In New Hampshire and elsewhere in the nation and around the world, we need Catholics willing to defy their dictates. If that is subversive, so be it. The pagan Socrates drank hemlock rather than deny what he believed in. We Catholics, while paying lip service to the martyrs, prefer to drink the “progressive” Kool-Aid. As Saint Ambrose said, we shall be held to account not only for our idle words but also for our “idle silences.”