Thursday, 22 December 2011

O Rex Gentium - The Kings of the Earth are as nothing

The 'O Antiphons' are sung according to tradition, during the evening liturgy on the last days of Advent. Each one is a named attribute of The Christ, to whose coming the church looks forward with eager and in these latter days, heightened expectation

O Rex Gentium
Sung by the Dominican student brothers of Blackfriars, Oxford

I think it was the Marquis de Sade of all people, who came up with what, I guess to him sounded like a novel political philosophy, suggesting that people were much happier if the weak were ruled by the powerful and we all lived in the human equivalent of a pecking order. You might say 'well he would say that wouldn't he'.  

Of course if this is true, then we as human beings ought to be happy for this is precisely how human society has ordered itself down through the ages. There is no age in which in the end 'The Will to Power' has not been writ large, and all who rule do so by force, even if it is 'only' the force of argument (always, let us not forget backed up by the threat of violence if some don't like the arguments which 'wins the day'). Democratically elected governments show no particular antipathy towards prosecuting war to protect the system that keep them in power. Democracy may or may not be 'the least worst form of Government', but it is none the less as idolatrous in its pretensions as all that has gone before it and those which no doubt in the fullness of time will follow it. 

Indeed it may be argued that there is much to be said for hereditary monarchy in this regard. There's always at least a chance of a reluctant King or Queen, made so by an accident of birth rather than by laying hold on power by power, in however 'civilised' a manner.

When we hear O King of the Nations, it is Almost impossible to hear that phrase without hearing it through such a filter - as if we are finally waiting for the one who will WIN by argument or Overwhelming physical strength or both, depending upon your particular version of the Parousia. 

But that is to completely misunderstand the relationship between God and humankind, that He created something other than himself when we were spoken into being, that were it not for Jesus Christ, there would be no correspondence whatsoever between the creator and the Created and that Only in Christ may we begin to understand that elusive phrase 'Image of God', used so loosely by many today to justify the human before God. God is not man to the raised to the nth degree, even if n = infinity. There is just No correspondence apart from Christ and thus we need to realise that in our hoping for the King of the Nations, we are not meant to be looking for the human system and way of doing things perfected, that we might find our eternal happiness if the strong rule over the weak.

This is the King whose Kingship is revealed when there is nothing in him that we might desire him and hides when he looks as if he is the sort of King we desire. At that Very Point where we would acclaim him King, when he enacts the supreme act of a Good King and  feeds the hungry 5000, in the very moment when he does what We would have a King do, when they would 'make him King by force' - he hides from them, he hides from us. He is the strangest of Kings in that when to our eyes he seems to put things right, to be King on our terms he disappears from view, as if this isn't the point, as if oddly this is not what Kings should do. And then when Politically he is spent, when there is nothing left when his enemies have won the day and arguments as good as most employed though the ages in pursuit of power have been made and 'won' , when he is empty and in our eyes a hopeless case, THEN he is declared King.

We await a King
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
the one who reveals the utter vacuity of all our agendas
the one who reveals that if only someone would feed us we'd be 'happy'
and in so doing reveals that in our striving to be More -
we have become far far less than we were created to be

He is the King who in His Glory, reveals our true Glory
but it doesn't look like any Thing

We cry out for our King to come
but would we secretly be happier if he didn't and the powerful people made sure that there was bread on the table

Whom will we have to rule over us?

Will we have him for Our King? 

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay. 
O Come, O Come Emmanuel


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