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Sunday, November 20, 2011

From the Pastor - Christ the King

A weekly column by Father George Rutler.

As autumnal days grow darker, the feast of Christ the King bursts like a flame, presaging the new year. Here at work is the motto that Mary Queen of Scots embroidered not long before her execution: En ma Fin gît mon Commencement — “In my end is my beginning.”  Most likely she had in mind the salamander, which was the symbol of her grandfather-in-law, François I of France. Legend had the salamander self-igniting at death to be reborn from the ashes. It was similar to the image of the phoenix, common to myths Greek and Oriental, that ends in flame to burst forth new and stronger.

Christ is King of the universe because “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). He rose to life from death, not in myth but in fact: “And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me: Write, for these words are most faithful and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Even the most elegant human words are inadequate to be any more than echoes of the Living Word, who uttered all things into existence; but they are true as they are inspired by the Love between the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Spirit. Fitting it is, then, that at this end of the Church's cycle of worship, she prepares to begin a new translation of the English form of the Latin Rite of the Eucharist. The new altar Missals are embellished with beautiful art from various centuries to accompany this new beginning.

The changes are relatively minor, compared with the big changes of some forty years ago. There still are some people who promoted those changes back then, probably too quickly, who now grumble that people will not be able to adjust to this innovation. That certainly underestimates the people. In my experience, young people are far more adept at adjusting to a recovery of old graciousness than some older people who can be graceless about admitting that some of the changes they made were inadequate. The new translation is rather like the “gentrification” of decaying neighborhoods, using the best modern skills to restore what iconoclasts damaged because it was not “up to date.” The new translation, which is more faithful to the authentic Latin texts, is a bit like Grand Central Terminal restored: a lesson learned after the old Pennsylvania Station was replaced by the current building, which is an affliction to commuters.

T.S. Eliot began his poem East Coker with modern pessimism: “In my beginning is my end. In succession / Houses rise and fall.” But the last line bursts into the same hope that the Queen of Scots embroidered in her cold castle, and which ends the violence between things old and new: “In my end is my beginning.”

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