Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." -John 18:33-37
The Church asks us to dwell in several times at once.In terms of John's Gospel, the woven crown of thorns is the kingly crown, the cross of death is the throne of glory.Looking from Calvary forward into the reign of Christ, or looking back from the heavenly gathering to the lonely crucible, we carry the narrative from beginning to end and end to beginning in one simultaneous but pivotal and layered moment in our souls at this particular feast of the year.The church year lets us tell the story from apocalypse to apocalypse, from the devastating end of the world to the revelation at end of time. This Sunday lets us rest in this second ending, following “the Lamb” into that blessed field of light and fulfillment (Meditation One).All our desires culminate in the challenge to imagine what this Christ-time must be like (Meditation Two). The Christian year may end with Christ in glory, but in fact, we help bring about this reign with good works in a suffering world in very real present time (Meditation Three.)
Enjoy this week’s challenge. And enjoy a blessed feast of the Reign of Christ. - Suzanne
Meditation One (introit)
drawn toward the kingdom
Where do you pasture your sheep, O Good Shepherd, you who carry on your shoulders the whole flock? For it is but one sheep, this entire human race whom you lift onto your shoulders. Show me the place where there are green pastures, let me know restful waters, lead me out to nourishing grass and call me by name so that I can hear your voice, for I am your own sheep. And through that voice calling me, give me eternal life.
“Tell me, you whom my soul loves.” This is how I address you, because your true name is above all other names; it is unutterable and incomprehensible to all rational creatures. And so the name I use for you is simply the statement of my soul’s love for you, …
Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa c.394 from commentary on the Song of Songs
O how glorious is the kingdom wherein the Saints rejoice with Christ: arrayed in white robes, they follow the Lamb whither soever he goeth.
-Antiphon on Psalms, First Vespers, All Saints
Vision of the Throne of the Lord, Paris Apocalypse, French Miniaturist c.1400
As truly as we shall be in the bliss of God without end, praising and thanking him, so truly have we been in God’s love and knowledge in endless purpose from without beginning. In this love without beginning, God created us. In the same love, God protects us and does not allow us to be hurt in a way that might decrease our bliss. Therefore, when the judgment is given and we are all brought up above, we shall clearly see in God the mysteries which are now hidden from us.
Then shall none of us be moved to say in any manner, "Lord, if it had been so, it would have been well." But we shall all say with one voice, "Lord, blessed may you be, because it is so, it is well. Now we truly see that everything is done as it was ordained by you before anything was made."
-Julian of Norwich 1342- c1416 trans. Colledge and Walsh
For those who abandon themselves to it, God's love contains every good thing, and if you long for it with all your heart and soul it will be yours. All God asks for is love, and if you search for this kingdom where God alone rules, you can be quite sure you will find it. For if your heart is completely devoted to God, your heart itself is this treasure, this very kingdom which you desire so ardently. Jean Pierre de Caussade, 1675-1751 Abandonment to Divine Providence.
The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD! Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. -Psalm 93
To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. -Daniel 7:14
The Kingdom of God is greater than all report, better than all praise of it, more manifold than every conceivable glory.The Kingdom of God is so full of light, peace, charity, wisdom, glory, honesty, sweetness, loving-kindness and every unspeakable and unutterable good, that it can neither be described nor envisioned by the mind.The citizens of heaven are the just and the angels, whose king is Almighty God.In the Kingdom of God, nothing is desired that may not be found.In the Kingdom of God is nothing that does not delight and satisfy.In the eternal Kingdom there shall be life without death, truth without falsehood, and happiness without a shadow of unrest or change.
-Patrickc.387-493 sermon for Adventquoted in Gail Ramshaw’s Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary
Meditation Three (integration) down-to-earth kingdom
If we are not interested in the minds, the feelings, the hopes, fears, sorrows and joys of everyone with whom we come in contact, we are not interested in Christ.Whatever we do to anyone, we do to him.If we are impatient with the mental suffering, the doubting, the questioning, and the wrestling with the angel of the more sensitive minds, then we are impatient with the mind of Christ bleeding under the crown of thorns.If we shrink from the broken lives of sinners, then we draw away from Christ fallen and crushed under his cross.If we will not go to the sick and the poor to help them, we will not help Christ. How shall we educate ourselves to face other people’s sufferings?First, we can start with the physical. …
…None of us is so poor that we cannot find another in greater need than ourself.It takes far greater skill to attend to a broken heart than it does to attend to a broken limb.
-Caryll Houselander 1901-1949 The Comforting of Christ (1947)Quoted in Mystics, Visionaries & Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Spiritual Writings, Shawn Madigan, C.S.J., editor
The Last Word
When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ.When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ.When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ.When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ.When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
-Ambrose of Milanc.337/340 - 397
Where Truth Reigns
"I come to testify to the truth."
At the heart of the apocalyptic season Jesus reigns from a cross. It is the end. It is the beginning. His death is the catastrophic end that begets something entirely new.
With this revelation of Christ enthroned, every person must undergo great upheaval. For Christ is enthroned not only in suffering, not only in glory, but in the human heart. In your heart. In mine. The upheaval exposes what is false in us, and the painful but ultimately fruitful revelation of what is True.
The church invites you and me into this season of upheaval of our very being, that we may participate in the devastating holiness enthroned deep in our heart of hearts where Truth reigns.
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. -Revelation 1:4b-8