“The Lord is King”
There are three psalms that begin
with these words, “The Lord is King.” They are psalms 93, 97
and 99. And if you look in The Book of Common Prayer at
those psalms, on pages 450, 454 and 456, you will notice that these psalms
have the same Latin title, Dominus regnavit. It means “the
Lord rules”, in other words, “the Lord is King.” The
inclusion of the Latin titles, invariably taken from the first words of the
psalms in their Latin translation, reminds us of the long and rich tradition
of prayer and spirituality to which we are connected. The Latin
psalms, in some sense, shaped the thought-world of the West for more than a
“The Lord is King”
signals that the God of Israel is the King of all creation. For
Christians that kingship is made visible in the paradox and wonder of Christ
crucified and dead, and then, Christ risen and ascended; in
short, the cross and the glory.
We meet in the Ascension of
Christ. Thursday was Ascension Day, the culmination of the
resurrection and the celebration of the homecoming of the Son to the
Father having accomplished “the will of the one who sent [him]”.
It is a time of great rejoicing, a time of great glory. “God has
gone up with a merry noise”, as the gradual psalm for today puts it.
The Son has returned to the Father. Today is The Sunday after
Ascension. In the meaning of the Ascension we celebrate the
Session of Christ at the right hand of the Father. He “ascended
into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father” as we just
said in the Creed. What does it mean?
It signals the gathering into
glory of what we heard and saw on the Cross on Good Friday, “it is
finished”, meaning accomplished and concluded. “The end
of all things is at hand”, says St. Peter, but that end is in the hands
of God, in the hands of the Son who sits at the right hand of God. It
is an image of rule and majesty, of power and dominion, but it is one that
has gathered into that rule all the misrule of human sin and folly.
The Ascension and the Session of Christ proclaim Christ as
Pantocrator, ruler of all. That rule is the rule of divine reason.
O qui perpetua mundum ratione gubernas. “O thou who dost
rule the world with everlasting reason”, as a Christian philosopher,
Boethius, puts it. He was contemporary with St. Benedict who founded
Benedictine monasticism in the sixth century. The labours and liturgy
of Benedictine monasticism, especially through the psalm offices, would
shape Europe and those lands which are the children of Europe; in short, the
modern world in its medieval legacy and roots.
Christ sits on the throne of God.
His exaltation is no mere power trip. In his exaltation, as the
ancient fathers put it, is “the exaltation of our humanity.”
All rule and power ultimately share in the rule and power of God. “Thou
couldst have no power at all against me”, Jesus says to Pilate,
“except it were given thee from above”. All power and authority
ultimately derive from God. And in the going forth and return of the
Son to the Father, all that belongs to sin and death has been gathered into
the reign of God.
It means that the experiences of
our lives in all of their complexity and confusion are not without meaning,
provided they are gathered into the rule of God in Christ. He sits
“at the right hand of the Father” having accomplished all that he was
sent to do. It is ‘mission accomplished’, we might say, but it
remains for us to realize that “mission” in our own lives through
compassionate service and passionate prayer, through the consecration of our
lives to God in prayer and praise, in the Word proclaimed and the Sacraments
celebrated, lifting up to God all the affairs and concerns of our world and
day, placing everything and ourselves included in the ruling mercy of the
risen, ascended and glorified Christ. And it means that continual
aspect of waiting upon God.
In the session of Christ, we wait
purposefully for the promised descent of the Holy Spirit who keeps us in the
truth and words of Christ and who guides us through those words and
not away from them into all truth. The going forth of the Son
to the Father is, as we have said, the condition of God’s being with us in
the power of the Spirit. This is the promise of the Father and the
Son. We live in that promise now. Where and how? In the
Church, the body of Christ, the Church who is Mother.
The Church is Mary in her waiting
upon the Word and Will of God, in her magnifying the Lord, in her pondering
in her heart the words of Christ, in her gathering into her soul all the
things of the world.
All things rising, all things
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of
In Mother Church, Mary
“mothers each new grace” and in her we give thanks on this Mother’s
Day for the mothers of our natural births and the nourishment in life
that they have given us. And yet in Mary, the Mother of God, we contemplate
even more our spiritual good which embraces all our natural lives and
bestows upon them dignity and grace, the dignity and grace of Christ being
with us through her so that we can be with him where he is with her. “She
holds high motherhood/ towards our ghostly good/ And plays in grace her
part/ About man’s beating heart”, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts
The Session of Christ and the
Motherhood of Mary embrace, too, our remembrance on this day of The
Victory in Europe sixty years ago and its cost in so many lives lost
through the tyranny of power abused and misused. The power of totalitarian
regimes in every generation is the power that denies the power and the
authority of God and in so doing destroys and denies the dignity and the
truth of our humanity. In the Session of Christ, “we kneel before
God,” John Paul II famously said, “but we stand up to tyrants”.
The Victory in Europe was about standing up to tyranny. When we fail
to do that we become complicit in corruption ourselves. It is,
perhaps, the challenge for us in our day, too, for our church and for our
Above all else, it means
honouring the reason and the will of God signaled most profoundly in the
Ascension and the Session of Christ. It is the profoundest counter to
the existential pragmatism of our age in its atheistic secularism. The
Lord is King is the proclamation that checks the petty tyrannies of our
will and pride, on the one hand, and places us in the mercy and truth of
God, on the other hand. We have only to will it. It is the
challenge of our lives, our lives lived to God and with God and with one
another, “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever”.
“The Lord is King”