We may have to wait until the end of time (or the end of our lives) to see the Son of Man seated on His glorious throne. Only the rare, humble soul I suppose is allowed in this life to glimpse beyond the veil. But for the rest of us, or at least speaking for myself, we actually don’t have to look far to see Jesus seated on His chosen throne in this world. All through the Gospels, Jesus in His ministry eschews the throne many had expected Him to take up. He chose a different kind of throne on which to sit in His glory here on earth: conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, born into the manger in a cave, seated as the Teacher on the mountain of the Beatitudes, tired and thirsty at Jacob’s well where He meats the Samaritan Woman, exalted on the Cross, laid down in silence in the tomb. And in one of the most challenging parables He gives to us, Jesus is enthroned in the hungry who need food, the thirsty who need drink, a stranger who needs welcome, the naked who need clothing, the ill who need care, the prisoner who needs company (Matthew 25:35-40). And lest we forget, we are placed on that throne with Him in the Eucharist.
We may have to wait until the end to see Jesus on His glorious throne of judgment. But that doesn’t mean we get to ignore the ways he is enthroned here on earth. Writing in between two of history’s greatest conflicts, Pope Pius XI gifted the Church with the Feast of Christ the King. In a world still recovering from the atrocities of World War I, while beginning to sense the destructive tension that would lead to World War II, the Holy Father noted:
[T]hese 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… [A]s 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. (Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas 1, 11 December, 1925)
Christ must be enthroned in this world, if this world is going to experience any kind of peace. And not just as a metaphorical king. The Pope notes that we will often speak of Christ’s kingship as something that happens in our hearts and in our wills. But he notes the it does not end there. His kingship is real and the entire universe is His dominion. With a beautiful dive into the theology of the humanity and divinity of Christ, the God-man:
His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. (Quas Primas 13)
That the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity has enthroned Himself within His own creation makes Him not merely some metaphorical king, but the legitimate and only King of the Universe. Jesus Christ has entered into our humanity, so that our humanity may be lifted up into His divinity!
What does it look like then, when we let Jesus be our king? When we let Him take up our humanity into His divinity? I want to offer this image:
Blessed Miguel Pro shares in Jesus’ reign as king by having given up his own life. Miguel Pro was a priest in Mexico in the 1920’s during the violent, anti-Catholic revolution, which saw the rise of the Cristeros movement, whose cry had become Viva Cristo Rey, Long Live Christ the King. During this time, it became illegal for priests and for laity to practice their Catholic faith publicly. Even privately, it was at the risk of one’s life that they would receive the Sacraments. Blessed Miguel became a priest at this time, but because of the persecutions had to complete his studies here in California, in Spain, and finally in Belgium, where he was ordained a priest. He began his ministry with miners in Belgium, but his heart was in Mexico. He could have stayed where it was safe, but he chose to come back, into the heart of the revolution.
While he was in Mexico, he went about his ministry very boldly. But eventually he was caught and arrested simply for being a priest. He was framed for an attempted assassination attempt on the former president of Mexico, who was allied with the government which had been trying to destroy the Catholic faith. The president at the time had Miguel executed without trial, falsely accusing him of taking part in the assassination attempt. He was killed on Nov 23, 1927; 93 years ago this coming week.
There were cameras there for the execution, so that the death of this priest could be shown to the people of Mexico, and crush any hope of Catholics in the country. At the moment that the firing squad took aim, Miguel looked at them, forgave them, and with his arms out, as if he were on a cross, he cried out, Viva Cristo Rey, Long Live Christ the King. He died with Christ’s name on his lips. And while the president hoped that this would terrify the Catholics of Mexico, instead there were 40,000 people lining the streets as his body was taken to the cemetery; and 20,000 more people when it arrived there. The Cristeros warriors would even carry the image of his execution in their pockets as they fought.
When Miguel Pro was beatified, Pope St. John Paul II said of him:
“Neither suffering nor serious illness, nor the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.” (Pope St. John Paul II, Beatification of Miguel Pro, 25 Sept, 1988)
So, Christ is king, but we may not see him as king, enthroned, in the way that we would like. Perhaps it would be safer if Christ was a king, sitting up in heaven, safely on his throne. Yet, His throne on this earth was the cross, and from time to time, he still sits on that throne here on earth.
But what a joy it gives to the crosses we carry in our lives to know that our king sat there first, and that when we take up our crosses, we sit on his throne. There is no way to holiness but the cross. I’ve been searching and searching for ways to holiness and wholeness that do no require the cross of Jesus Christ. But I have not found one yet.
But this should bring a smile to our lips, that we cannot succeed any other way. We can’t do this on our own. We just go where our king has gone before us, and let Him place us on His throne.
Viva Cristo Rey.