Father Martin B. Hellriegel
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
Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
Something for the weekend. To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King. Written in 1941 by Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally. We Americans have traditionally understood that God is in charge: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Abraham Lincoln ringingly set forth what this section of the Declaration means: “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”
Nothing could be further from the nightmarish ideas that fueled the Third Reich, and Father Martin B. Hellriegel in his magnificent hymn conveys this majestic conception of God and of humanity under God.