Christ the King, and honor in worship

Christ the King (try as I might, I couldn’t identify the artist).

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King — properly “Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe” — the last Sunday of the liturgical year, before Advent begins it anew, when we celebrate Jesus’s Divine Kingship over all Creation.

I had a brief thought this morning at Mass, in response to the criticisms of some Protestant friends, that Catholic worship is “empty ritual” or “rote.” When the king of a great earthly kingdom visits — when the President of the United States, or the Queen of England, or a senator or a governor or even a powerful CEO, makes an appearance — there is an expected protocol, an established ceremony, in welcoming that person and celebrating his or her presence. The act of that ceremony — and the people’s participation in it — shows that person the honor, respect, and reverence befitting his or her position.

How much the more should we do the same for the Almighty King of the Universe, the Lord of All Creation! Our liturgy — all the texts, and psalms, and chants; all the vestments and vessels and incense; all the buildings, all the art, all the music — they are to honor our King, to celebrate His Presence, His coming to us in the Sacraments; to lift high His Name, in heavenly praise with the angels — but also to magnify Him before all the world. Almighty God, the King of the Universe, took on flesh and walked among us, and still He is in our midst, in His Holy Spirit — and in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. How can we not do these things?

Peace

As Kristen said, I am now in the “Countdown to Catholic.” 21 days to Easter…

Something major that I intended to write about as I set out, but have thus far neglected to, is the “affinities” — those beautiful and glorious aspects of Catholicism that have drawn me. Tonight I thought I would begin with the first one that comes to mind when I explain my reasons for becoming Catholic: peace.

As I’ve alluded to once or twice before, I really struggle in my life with depression and anxiety and fear. The older and the more I’ve grown as a Christian, the more and more central has been my longing and need for inner peace. My favorite Scripture for a long time has been in Philippians 4:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

When I began attending Mass a little more than a year ago, one of the first things I was struck with was the pervading sense of peace I found there. There is peace in the inherent order of the Mass — in its symmetry — in everything happening that is supposed to happen; in everything being said that’s supposed to be said; in nothing being wasted. There is peace in the church itself. To Catholics, the nave of the church is always a house of prayer, for reverence and worship and contemplation, not a place to socialize or chatter or roughhouse. I had the sense that I had entered a consecrated space.

And peace is central to the Mass itself — to the very Catholic consciousness. I count at least eight or nine times in the liturgy of the Mass when peace is imparted, all of which speak from Scripture:

Gloria

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.

Lord’s Prayer

Priest: Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sign of Peace

Priest: Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles, Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

Priest: The Peace of the Lord be with you always.

All: And with your spirit.

Deacon or Priest: Let us offer each other a sign of peace.

This simple act — the act of turning to my fellow parishioners and wishing them peace — “Peace be with you” — is one of the most precious parts of the Mass to me. It is a moment of bonding, of sharing, with people I may not even know, but who are my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom I share in His love. On some days, that bonding makes the difference between feeling lonely and depressed and feeling Christ’s love. I never even realized, until I started coming to Mass, how much Christ Himself talked about peace. “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). I had read and heard these words before, but they failed to make an impact until I felt them in action.

Agnus Dei

All: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace.

Jesus is the Lamb of God, who not only takes away the sins of the world, but grants us peace. These words are power and life to me. And more than in any other church I’ve been a part of, these words and this peace are held forth by the Catholic Church.