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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Father Rutler: Christ the King

Father George W. Rutler
These days I am frequently asked if we are living in the “End Times.” As the grace of Holy Orders does not make me a seer, I defer, as is prudent, to the King of Universe: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). So the answer simply is that we do not know, but as the Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus” motto exhorts, we must constantly be prepared. That vigilance is contingent on everyone’s immediate obligation to be recollect for the end of one’s own life. For the Christian, this is a stimulus to faith rather than neurosis. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  

The prophets were not like the boy who cried “Wolf!” They were inspired by God to tell what he wants his people to know about spiritual readiness, so that his kingly rule is that of a shepherd guiding his flock through the variables of human experience. In the film The Lion in Winter, Katharine Hepburn as Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, remarks with regal resignation about her dysfunctional family: “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” Christ’s family the Church has always had its ups and downs, often big time, and many times it has been the lamentable case that the Shepherd King is tasked with herding cats rather than sheep.  

The Church began with a crucifixion when no one expected a resurrection. That sequence of death and life is repeated time and again. There were the persecutions under so many Caesars, heresies with volatile schisms in consequence, sieges, desecrations, destructions, corruptions and civilly institutionalized blasphemies. But each of these crucifixions was followed by a resurrection. This is to be remembered when distress in the Church is accompanied by a confluence of unrest and fear in politics and pandemics. Through it all, the Carthusian motto grows ever more stolid and incontestable: “Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis”—the Cross stands steady while the world revolves. This is most vivid when the revolving world seems to be whirling out of control.  

On November 5, the ninety-year-old Cardinal Tumi of Cameroon was briefly kidnapped by separatists who demanded that he endorse their propaganda. He told his captors that he must preach only what is true: “Nobody has the right to tell me to preach the contrary because I was called by God.” In every cultural crisis, this is the kind of witness that transcends any attempt to speculate about the end of the world, for it takes its strength from the assurance that Christ Crucified in Jerusalem is also Christ the King of the Universe. 
 
                           His dominion is an everlasting dominion  
                           that shall not be taken away,
                           his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14) 

Faithfully yours in Christ, 
Father George W. Rutler


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