The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
We all look forward to the feast of Christ the King. I hope that a beautiful environment, majestic music, wafting incense and perhaps extra candles will surround our liturgies. After all, these are the grand and glorious gestures befitting one who is a king. We will envision Jesus in flowing robes, wearing a magnificent gold crown. He is holding a jeweled scepter as he sits at the right hand of God the Father. What a great day to celebrate liturgy.
However this year, the Gospel will stop our thoughts of grandeur in their tracks. Our “king” is revealed to us, hanging on a cross, stripped of his garments, with blood dripping from his whipped body. His crown is one made of thorns. It does not seem to make sense. After a year of moving through the Scriptures, listening to Jesus tell us to follow him, to take on his mind and heart that we may enjoy his kingdom, he appears to have failed us. We want the robes and the crown, not a cross.
Yet it is the cross, the crucifix, that we encounter each time we enter a Catholic church. It is a central focal point, a symbol of paradox, for us people who claim the resurrection of Jesus and everlasting life as our inheritance. However, we need to see that crucifix, again and again. It serves as a reminder that the kingdom may be near, but it is not yet here. We must allow ourselves to be united to the crucified Jesus, before we can embrace the resurrected Jesus. If we are unable to pledge our very lives to this bloody and battered king on the cross, we will never find our way to his heavenly kingdom.
When you come to Mass this week, take time to gaze upon the crucifix in your church. Notice the details of Jesus’ body, the tilt of the head, the muscles, the bones and the wounds. Imagine yourself letting the lifeless head of Jesus, your king, rest upon your shoulder. Think about the artists who have carved that image. What might they have been feeling as they went about their work? Consider how closely your parish crucifix matches the crucified image of Christ that you carry in your mind and heart.
Perhaps, if you do not have a crucifix in your house, this is the time to purchase one. Place it in a prominent place. Stop in front of that crucifix on occasion and offer this beautiful prayer composed by St. Francis of Assisi: “We adore you, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here, and in all your churches throughout all the world; and we bless you, because, by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.” It is a prayer befitting a king.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.