Sunday, November 22, 2015
Father George Rutler: Christ the King
Our former church was begun in 1857 and rebuilt after a fire in 1892. When I kneel before the high altar, which was moved to its present location in 1907 to make room for the Pennsylvania Station, I think of how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been offered there through the Civil War with its Draft Riots and lynchings, and two World Wars, as well as Korea and Vietnam, with their victory parades and funerals for the young men killed in them. Workers and firemen who worshiped at this altar were killed at the World Trade Center. Every altar in the world is a focus of the human drama, and while Christ died once and rose in victory never to die again, his death transcends time in his merciful union with all human suffering. This is why Pascal said paradoxically in his Pensées that the Risen Christ “is in agony on the Mount of Olives until the end of the world.”
When the haters of remnant Christian civilization struck Paris last Friday the 13th, many kept saying that it was “unreal” and “inexplicable.” But the blood was real, and the cruelty was totally explicable by the history of false religion and its embrace of evil. Fittingly, when the attack began in that concert hall, the band was playing a cacophonous piece, barely distinguishable from gunfire, called “Kiss the Devil.” Only those afflicted with the illusion of secular progressivism as a substitute for the Gospel seemed bewildered. Evil is real and explicable by the Fall of Man. Through the battles that have been fought and endured as Mass was being said on our altar, those who knelt here have promised to renounce Satan, and all his evil works, and all his empty promises.
It is different now that a whole generation has been taught to think that there is no evil to resist, and no holiness to attain. The highest ambition of our new “therapeutic culture” is no loftier than the desire to “feel good” about oneself. We were solaced by politicians telling us that ISIS has been “contained” and is less dangerous than climate change. While Christians in the Middle East were being slaughtered in what the pope himself called genocide, although our own State Department refused to call it that, coddled and foul-mouthed students on our college campuses were indulging psychodramatic claims of hurt feelings and low self-esteem. They are not the stuff of which civilization’s heroes are made, and when the barbarians flood the gates, their teddy bears and balloons will be of little use.
Christ is the King of the universe because “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). To deny that is to be left in a moral whirlwind, thinking that evil is unreal and the actions of evil people have no explanation.
Father George W. Rutler is pastor of the Church of St. Michael in New York City and the author most recently of Clouds of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive . His The Spirit of Vatican II appeared in First Things and He is Not Here , his homily for the Mass for the repose of the soul of Richard John Neuhaus, and Words and Reality in “On the Square.”