30 October 2017

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".

Actually, 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.


Colin Spinks said...

Father, thinking about this more carefully, I find myself more and more in agreement with you. Indeed Christ's kingship is properly manifested by his Ascension, an event chronologically and causally prior to Pentecost. (i.e. He ascended in order that we might receive the gifts of the Spirit) By (mis)placing the Feast of CK at the end of the liturgical year (especially if one thinks of the weeks of ordinary time as "After Pentecost"), is there perhaps an implicit suggestion that it is the workings of the Spirit which bring about Christ's Kingship, rather than his own atoning sacrifice and resurrection? And is this somehow connected with a frequent concern of yours, namely the invocation of the "Spirit" by the Magisterium as an inspiration for "new" teaching

Mario Josipovic said...

"For All the Saints" has a rather telling metaphor criticizing saintly intercession, which reveals a mistake I find in all Protestantism. Wright challenges the reader with a scene where one approaches a kingly court, and opts to ask the doorman if he could intercede with the king - except, the king is willing to hear you in person! Foolish Catholic knave, grovelling through intercessors, when the king is waiting to hear you directly!

A better metaphor for describing prayers of intercession is a factorial mapping, where each of us, yes, can and should pray directly to God, but additionally through multiple points of contact in the communion of saints. Protestants have a sola persona contact with God denuded of the richness of community - what an impoverished view of our connectedness to God.

One other beef I have with Wright: he once wrote a short essay describing his encounter with the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") from an Orthodox Bishop (may have been from Romania). Wright tackles the prayer with his usual erudite observations, but then goes on to pen a Trinitarian version of the prayer! "Look at me! I create smarter prayers than have been handed down through the ages! You medieval rubes - you just don't understand as well as I do!" This fellow has a tin ear for Tradition, thinking one simply needs to develop propositional truths derived from Pauline texts in order to capture the true essence of the Faith.

Paul Goings said...

I prefer the October date for a number of reasons:

1. The pre-Advent date has allowed liturgists and preachers to focus exclusively on the eschatological aspects of Christ's Kingship, and downplay (or ignore) the Social Kingship of Christ.

2. As an American, I like that it immediately precedes our national election day, as the texts so clearly express the nature of the state that we should be striving towards (I am thinking especially of the Preface in this connection).

3. The connection with All Saints and All Souls, and the observance of Mission Sunday the previous week makes a nice continuum.

Unknown said...

Wright is, indeed, no fool, and he played an inadvertent role in leading me into Catholicism, but he can also be a pain. As Mario indicates, he has an obnoxious tendency to think he has discovered real biblical faith that the rest of the Church has missed so that, his general creedal orthodoxy notwithstanding, his character is not so different from some of his liberal friends like Marcus Borg.

That said, he may be on to something with the feast of Christ the King.

Augustine Pinnock said...

Christ the King is a very important feast as we live in a time in which the denial of the Kingship of Christ is ubiquitous. Even in the Church there are many people who support the ideas of freedom of religion and separation of Church and State, ideas contrary to Catholic doctrine. I therefore think that it is very important that the feast of Christ the King is celebrated, thereby laying a special emphasis on the Social Kingship of Christ which would not be had if we scrapped it saying that the Ascension is sufficient. We as Catholics must not forget that it is our duty to convert our countries and the world and to strive for the establishment of confessional states. Having said that, I do not see why the feast of Christ the King should be moved to the end of the year, especially if it causes practical problems and gives the wrong impression. My impression is that the liturgically deformers shook things up, often not having a good reason to do so. Fr. Brucciani of the SSPX has written a very good summary of how Christ's reign should affect us practically and I think it is a point that cannot be laboured enough at the present time:

Banshee said...

I like it on either date. It's all eschatological and immanent too; yet the SJW crowd hates it! And we sing big sacred music! Yay!

Ascension is eschatological, but it's more about Jesus as High Priest, isn't it?

Of course, seeing as we don't have any earthly monarch in the US, we probably enjoy the symbolism of kingship more.

Unknown said...

When I hear confessional state, I hear penalties at law for non-conformers and dogma defined by the legislature.

Augustine Pinnock said...

Concerning a confessional state, Mr. Ahlsen-Girard is correct about there being legal penalties for non-conformers, but he could not be more totally and utterly wrong concerning dogma being defined by the legislature of the temporal power. In a Catholic state, followers of false religions are not allowed to proselytise nor are they allowed to publicly practice their religion. This reality is clearly taught by Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. The following are condemned propositions:
"77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship. — Allocution “Nemo vestrum,” July 26, 1855.
78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. — Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852."
Mediaeval Europe was full of confessional states and it is quite clear that the definition of dogma was left to the Church, as it was correctly understood that it is the Church that has the authority to teach, not the State.