God and the Father of Our Country

Today is the feast day of Christ the King in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, signaling the ending of the Church year.  On this date my thoughts turn to April 30, 1789 when President George Washington commenced the government of the United States under its new Constitution with the first inaugural address.  Below is the address.  Pay special attention to the second paragraph where Washington acknowledges the role of God in bringing about the American Republic, and notes that God is ruler of the Universe, and his final paragraph where he states that America depends upon God’s continued blessing:  so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

 

 

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

 

 

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence. Continue Reading

1

Christ the True King

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25:  31-46

 

 

 

And so our liturgical year comes to a close with the feast of Christ the King.   Just after the beginning of World War II the hero pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical  Summi Pontificatus in which he reminded all of humanity that in the final analysis Christ, not Man, is King.

 

To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action.

 

In today’s reading we are reminded that the God who marks the sparrow’s fall also recalls our acts of charity, mercy and love, as well as our sins.  How many have escaped damnation due to some forgotten kind act that redeems all in the eyes of God who sees us so infinitely better than we see ourselves?  When Christ sits in judgment of us, we will rightly tremble, but Justice incarnate will treat us better than we merit, because He sees us with the eyes of infinite love.  So much of the evil in our world is caused by our simple failure to ignore the love of God and to supplant His role as the ruler of our hearts with false Gods of our own creation.  Man made rulers are necessary in this world, but our actions in this world are mere stepping stones to our citizenship in the next, where Christ’s Kingdom, that He spoke of so often during His time on Earth, will be an everlasting reality.

Rudyard Kipling wrote long ago words that I always recall on this feast:

 

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
4

We Have No King But Jesus

 

The feast of Christ the King is a very new one, although the image of Christ as King is as old as Christianity.  Pope Pius XI established the feast with his encyclical Quas Primas  in 1925 to remind the World after the horrors of World War I and its aftermath that God was in charge.

This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.

Prior to the American Revolution an English aristocrat related an incident in a letter.  He asked an American servant who his master was, and the man responded unhesitatingly:  My Lord Jesus Christ!  The aristocrat found this hilarious, but the servant was reflecting a very old Christian view.

Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.

Our wisest statesman have always remembered that behind the trappings of power of this World that God is ultimately the one who has charge of the fate of nations as well as individuals.  Abraham Lincoln was utterly convinced of this as he indicated in a letter to Eliza P. Gurney on September 4, 1864 as the Civil War teetered in the balance:

The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must  prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive  them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible  war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We  shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile  we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so  working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends  some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal  could make, and no mortal could stay. Continue Reading

3

King Jesus

At the ending of the liturgical year our thoughts turn to the End Times.  The feast of Christ the King was proclaimed by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the growth both of nationalism and secularism.  Pope Paul VI moved it to the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the better to remind all of mankind that the time will come when Christ will return and reign as King forever.

Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.  At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.    Christ the King and We have no King but Jesus remind Christians that the nations of the world and the manner in which they are ruled, and mis-ruled, while very important to us during our mortal lives, are of little importance in the next.   They also instruct us that the State can never be an ultimate end in itself, can never override the first allegiance of Christians and that the rulers of the Earth will be judged as we all will be.  Although my Irish Catholic ancestors will shudder, and my Protestant Irish and Scot ancestors may smile, there is much truth in the inscription supposedly written on the sarcophagus, destroyed or lost after the Restoration, of that “bold, bad man”, Oliver Cromwell, “Christ, not Man, is King.”

Seventy years ago the ashes of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan attested to the great mistake of making worldly power the excuse for any crime.  How different it seemed in 1941 when both Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan seemed well on their way to global domination. In that year Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, wrote the magnificent hymn To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally: Continue Reading

2

Christ, not Man, is King

 

 

I have always liked that our liturgical year now ends with the feast of Christ the King.  It reminds us not only of the Last Day when Christ will reign in Judgment over all men who have ever lived, but also that beneath the showy pomp of human history, the Captains and the Kings who march through its pages are of infinitely of less account than, as the atheist historian HG Welles put it, the penniless preacher from Galilee who is the center of History.   Just after the beginning of World War II the hero pope Pius XII wrote the encyclical  Summi Pontificatus in which he reminded all of humanity that in the final analysis Christ, not Man, is King.

 

To consider the State as something ultimate to which everything else should be subordinated and directed, cannot fail to harm the true and lasting prosperity of nations. This can happen either when unrestricted dominion comes to be conferred on the State as having a mandate from the nation, people, or even a social order, or when the State arrogates such dominion to itself as absolute master, despotically, without any mandate whatsoever. If, in fact, the State lays claim to and directs private enterprises, these, ruled as they are by delicate and complicated internal principles which guarantee and assure the realization of their special aims, may be damaged to the detriment of the public good, by being wrenched from their natural surroundings, that is, from responsible private action. Continue Reading

10

We Have No King But Jesus

The feast of Christ the King is a very new one, although the image of Christ as King is as old as Christianity.  Pope Pius XI established the feast with his encyclical Quas Primas  in 1925 to remind the World after the horrors of World War I and its aftermath that God was in charge.

This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.

 

Prior to the American Revolution an English aristocrat related an incident in a letter.  He asked a servant who his master was, and the man responded unhesitatingly:  My Lord Jesus Christ!  The aristocrat found this hilarious, but the servant was reflecting a very old Christian view.

Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.  At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.

Our wisest statesman have always remembered that behind the trappings of power of this World that God is ultimately the one who has charge of the fate of nations as well as individuals.  Abraham Lincoln was utterly convinced of this as he indicated in a letter to Eliza P. Gurney on September 4, 1864 as the Civil War teetered in the balance:

The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must  prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive  them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible  war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We  shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile  we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so  working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends  some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal  could make, and no mortal could stay. Continue Reading

4

Pope Leo XIII on Christ the King

From Annum Sacrum:

3. This world-wide and solemn testimony of allegiance and piety is especially appropriate to Jesus Christ, who is the Head and Supreme Lord of the race. His empire extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church, although erroneous opinions keep them astray, or dissent from her teaching cuts them off from her care; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ. For He who is the Only-begotten Son of God the Father, having the same substance with Him and being the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance (Hebrews i., 3) necessarily has everything in common with the Father, and therefore sovereign power over all things. This is why the Son of God thus speaks of Himself through the Prophet: “But I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain. . . The Lord said to me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm, ii.). By these words He declares that He has power from God over the whole Church, which is signified by Mount Sion, and also over the rest of the world to its uttermost ends. On what foundation this sovereign power rests is made sufficiently plain by the words, “Thou art My Son.” For by the very fact that He is the Son of the King of all, He is also the heir of all His Father’s power: hence the words-“I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance,” which are similar to those used by Paul the Apostle, “whom he bath appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews i., 2). Continue Reading

Quas Primas

QUAS PRIMAS
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI
ON THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE
KING
TO OUR VENERABLE BRETHREN THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES,
ARCHBISHOPS,
BISHOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC
SEE.

Venerable Brethren, Greeting and the Apostolic
Benediction.

In the first Encyclical Letter which We addressed at
the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We
referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was
laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due
to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law
out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in
politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to
submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a
lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the
Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power.
In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not
be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the
restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. We were led in the meantime to indulge
the hope of a brighter future at the sight of a more widespread and keener
interest evinced in Christ and his Church, the one Source of Salvation, a sign
that men who had formerly spurned the rule of our Redeemer and had exiled
themselves from his kingdom were preparing, and even hastening, to return to the
duty of obedience.

2. The many notable and memorable events which have
occurred during this Holy Year have given great honor and glory to Our Lord and
King, the Founder of the Church.

3. At the Missionary Exhibition men have been deeply
impressed in seeing the increasing zeal of the Church for the spread of the
kingdom of her Spouse to the most far distant regions of the earth. They have
seen how many countries have been won to the Catholic name through the
unremitting labor and self-sacrifice of missionaries, and the vastness of the
regions which have yet to be subjected to the sweet and saving yoke of our King.
All those who in the course of the Holy Year have thronged to this city under
the leadership of their Bishops or priests had but one aim – namely, to expiate
their sins – and at the tombs of the Apostles and in Our Presence to promise
loyalty to the rule of Christ.

4. A still further light of glory was shed upon his
kingdom, when after due proof of their heroic virtue, We raised to the honors of
the altar six confessors and virgins. It was a great joy, a great consolation,
that filled Our heart when in the majestic basilica of St. Peter Our decree was
acclaimed by an immense multitude with the hymn of thanksgiving, Tu Rex
gloriae Christe. We saw men and nations cut off from God, stirring up strife
and discord and hurrying along the road to ruin and death, while the Church of
God carries on her work of providing food for the spiritual life of men,
nurturing and fostering generation after generation of men and women dedicated
to Christ, faithful and subject to him in his earthly kingdom, called by him to
eternal bliss in the kingdom of heaven.

5. Moreover, since this jubilee Year marks the
sixteenth centenary of the Council of Nicaea, We commanded that event to be
celebrated, and We have done so in the Vatican basilica. There is a special
reason for this in that the Nicene Synod defined and proposed for Catholic
belief the dogma of the Consubstantiality of the Onlybegotten with the Father,
and added to the Creed the words “of whose kingdom there shall be no end,”
thereby affirming the kingly dignity of Christ.

6. Since this Holy Year therefore has provided more
than one opportunity to enhance the glory of the kingdom of Christ, we deem it
in keeping with our Apostolic office to accede to the desire of many of the
Cardinals, Bishops, and faithful, made known to Us both individually and
collectively, by closing this Holy Year with the insertion into the Sacred
Liturgy of a special feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This
matter is so dear to Our heart, Venerable Brethren, that I would wish to address
to you a few words concerning it. It will be for you later to explain in a
manner suited to the understanding of the faithful what We are about to say
concerning the Kingship of Christ, so that the annual feast which We shall
decree may be attended with much fruit and produce beneficial results in the
future. Continue Reading

God the Servant

The feast of Christ the King is one of my favorite in the liturgical year.  It reminds me powerfully, through the confusion of daily life, that God reigns and rules.  However, there are myriad other ways of looking at God, and one of the more unusual, and powerful, is courtesy of the patron saint of paradox, G. K. Chesterton, in his The Ballad of  the White Horse. Continue Reading

2

Celtic Woman Singing Little Drummer Boy

Little Drummer Boy is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time and I surprisingly stumbled across the Celtic Woman version of this song.  Celtic Woman is an all-female musical ensemble which I came across on YouTube earlier this year and they are delightfully good!

This version of the popular Christmas song has Gregorian chant in it, I’m not sure who scored this, but it works very well with Celtic Woman’s version of Little Drummer Boy.

Here is the original music by the Harry Simeone Chorale:

And finally here is the Vienna Boys Choir rendition of this song:

My favorite line of the song is “then He smiled at me“.

Gets me every time.

Long live Christ the King!

Have a blessed Christmas.

QUAS PRIMAS

Pius XI

QUAS PRIMAS
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI
ON THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
TO OUR VENERABLE BRETHREN THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES,
ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE.

Venerable Brethren, Greeting and the Apostolic Benediction.

In the first Encyclical Letter which We addressed at the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. We were led in the meantime to indulge the hope of a brighter future at the sight of a more widespread and keener interest evinced in Christ and his Church, the one Source of Salvation, a sign that men who had formerly spurned the rule of our Redeemer and had exiled themselves from his kingdom were preparing, and even hastening, to return to the duty of obedience. Continue Reading