30 October 2022

Christ the KING: Tom Wright's view

Many readers of this blog will not have heard of Tom Wright. A former don in this University, he was made Bishop of (the prestigious see of ) Durham, because of his formidable academic reputation. After ... I think ... seven years he joined that distinguished number of heavyweight Anglican intellectuals who've either turned down episkope or else abandoned it after a short trial to return to academe. He is an Evangelical but has 'broadened' (when he was Chaplain of Worcester College in this University, he used to waggle incense around). He tries to understand the Catholic Faith, but, not having experienced it from the the inside, often gets things wrong. His books on S Paul and Pauline doctrine are very well worth reading. (Don't bother with For all the Saints, because he gets the Catholic/Orthodox cult of the Saints wrong.)

Tom is no fool. Writing about the adoption by the Church of England of the feast of Christ the King on the Sunday Next Before Advent, he objects because "this particular novelty ... gets it completely wrong. It presses all the wrong buttons. It completes the job of pulling the Church's year out of shape. Once again, more is less. This "feast" devalues other feasts and occasions ... by concluding the implicit story-line at the wrong point, thereby throwing out of kilter the narrative grammar of the whole story. It implies that Jesus Christ becomes King at the end of the sequence, the end of the story, as the result of a long process". So it devalues Ascension Day. It is, he opines, "like trying to eat the Christmas pudding first and stir it afterwards".

Archbishop Lefebvre wrote a very fine book pointing out the importance of the Social Kingship of Christ.

Incidentally, I wonder if the Feast of Christ the King may be up for review in more circles than one. Traddies very naturally prefer the intention manifested by Pius XI, that the Festival should be closely associated with the Feast of All Saints. I gather that all this stuff about Kingship appeals less and less to some Trendies, because they would rather think of the Lord as a Servant and all that sort of stuff. And people soaked in good old Anglican Patrimonial traditions miss Stir up Sunday. And people whose Patron Saint is S Andrew can't celebrate their Patron when he occurs on a Sunday and, of course, are prevented every year from celebrating his External Solemnity on the Sunday.

Does the current Novus Ordo treatment of Christ the King really make anybody happy? Pragmatically, you're more likely to have good enough weather for a procession of the Blessed Sacrament at the end of October. And the Pius XI date at the end of October would help to provide a bit of an antidote to the commercially-inspired 'Hallow'een' spookfest. Best of all, it provides a Christian alternative to Reformation Sunday.

Rather like Pius XII's clever idea of making May 1 the feast of S Joseph the workman, the November date for Christ the King has never really bedded down into the mentality and popular culture of ordinary Christians. Clever ideas quite often don't. Because Liturgy is, after being the property of the Almighty, the property really of the plebs sancta Dei, God's common ordinary folk, not of chaps with clever ideas who write learned papers about Inculturation but treat Liturgy like a gamesboard on which they and their chums are entitled to move the counters around.

Newliturgy has made such an appalling mess of liturgically proclaiming the Lord's kingship that it simply confuses and misdirects ... it does more harm than good.


Moritz Gruber said...

Oh, I am sorry. I have to disagree.

To have Christ the King on the last Sunday of October was, in a sense, a "clever idea" of Pope Pius XI. It has been received with great success and enthousiasm by the faithful Catholics up to the liturgy reform, as far as I see. To have St. Joseph the Workman on May 1st was, as you say, also a clever idea. It has worked less fine. I would not say it as altogether unreceived; also, I happen to rather like this feast on this date, too. But that is not the point.

The point is that the clever idea precisely was Christ-the-King in October. This is actually the most obvious proof by example that these ideas can possibly be good, however careful we have to be.

Move it to the end of the Church idea was not a clever idea. Or more precisely, it was a clever idea in a different manner: an idea cleverly expressing the wrong thing. The problem with the Stirrup Sunday date for Christ-the-King is not that it's one of these very fine ideas which fail when hitting actual practice (such as you claim, with more of a point even if I don't entirely agree, for St. Joseph the Workman). It was an idea which expressed what those who had the idea meant to express, and which shouldn't have been expressed.

The point of the feast of Christ the King is that Christ must reign (even) before ("until", as Scripture says) God has subjected everything to Him. Hence its position at the end of the Church year but distinctly before the feast of Church Triumphant and the Month of Supplication for the Faithful Departed. The argument of the liturgy reformers was not very unlike "but the time He will reign is after the Final Judgment", so they moved the feast to the (old) Sunday of the Final Judgment. (Which then also takes away something of the meaning of the Ascension feast, as Tom Wright rightly says.)

The problem with that is not that it is an unpopular, clever expert thing. It is that it was, while in itself true, an implicit denial of something else that is also, even if in the grand scheme less importantly, also true, and which was the precise point of Pius XI. In more colloquial terms, it was wrong.

In fact, I think this was the third greatest mistake of the entirely liturgy reform. (The first two are, in my view, 1. forcing it on those who'd rather have sticked to the Old Rite and 2. allowing in one instance wordly political correctness into the liturgy by shying away from explicitly including what is implicitly meant, namely the words "that is to say to Christ", in the Good Friday prayer for the Jews.)

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. I was learnt what I consider to be a simple truth. The revolutionaries moved the Feast of Christ the King to the end of time (Liturgical Year) because they thought that it is only then thatChrist will begin to rule as King.

If He is already King of Kings then, for example, the founders of America were not only wrong, but insane (evil) , to try and ignore His Kingship when they drafted the Constitution.

As for legislating against His Commandments and will, well, that hasn't worked out very well but because America was considered so successful that truth was cast into the outer darkness.

Ezechiel describes just how beautiful and brilliant Tyre was and how its King was considered as wise as David but it was destroyed because it did not worship God but materialism and America is headed for ruin for the same reason and voting will not save it.

Unknown said...

Even so, I would rather have the feast in its new placing than not have it at all.
J. Legault

Robster said...

Last Sunday in October = Counter-Reformation Sunday.

Neill said...

Can we please go back to taking Ascension Day seriously, and on the Thursday?
This is the real Feast of Christ the King.

Michael Leahy said...

I wonder did the Feast of St Joseph the Workman not catch on because, as Augusto del Noce pointed out, the form of Marxism in the West at just that time changed into a corrupted version that no longer saw class-struggle as its purpose? Modern Western socialism/communism/leftism has no concern whatsoever for the working class, indeed it quite despises such uncouth types, and is instead concerned with other forms of identity politics.

Greyman 82 said...

Father Z has recently published an excellent blog post on the feast of Christ the King, contrasting the Propers for the EF and OF version of the feast. Well worth a read.

PM said...

Indeed, Michael Leahy.

Some readers may recall that the 'progressive' liturgical establishment went into paroxysms in the late seventies and eighties when Anthony Archer (then OP) published his accounts of how much the old working class in Northumberland resented the imposition of the new liturgy by a smug and condescending new middle class.

JOseph Shaw has a brief account here:


Alan said...

Minor issue, Father: St Andrew's Day can't occur with Christ the King. If 30 November is a Sunday it will be Advent I.