Today two feast days coincide. We celebrate primarily the Solemnity of Christ the King, However, we also have another feast, one that is very important to the history of our parish and the presence of the Presentation Sisters in St Kilda. Today in addition to Christ the King we celebrate the Presentation of our Lady. Although the Presentation of our Lady typically mirrors the Presentation of our Lord, it also can help us consider Christ the King.
This week we celebrated a number of sacraments. We had a large number of students being confirmed. At that liturgy, we talked about the oil of Chrism and how it is was used to consecrate persons and places. Consecration means to set apart, and the oil of Chrism is used to set apart people in baptism: they become members of the kingdom of God. Chrism is also used to set apart certain of the people of God for sacred ministry in the sacrament of ordination. It is also used to set apart churches and altars as places where the people of God gather and where the Eucharist is realised.
The Feast of the Presentation of our Lady is also about consecration. The story goes that, like Samuel in the Old Testament, Mary was received by her parents as a great blessing from God. As thanksgiving for this great blessing, she was given back to God. She was consecrated to God in the Jewish Temple. The consecration of our Lady, then, can be seen both as the ritual, public expression of the reality of her Immaculate Conception, and also as a prefiguring of the Annunciation, when she declared herself the Handmaid of the Lord.
In the history of Art, the Presentation of our Lady is often depicted as our Lady climbing the stairs of the Temple as a child. She is leaving behind her parents and ascending towards the Temple High Priest. Something similar is seen in some iconography. When Jacob’s Ladder is depicted or its child in the tradition, namely, the Ladder of Mystical Ascent, Mary is often depicted as the reality of the Ladder. It is her humanity that when offered to God cooperates in God’s descent to humanity in the Incarnation. So, in many respects, Mary’s whole life is captured by this idea of consecration. She makes no sense outside of it. Her whole being points to Jesus.
Perhaps it is this idea of consecration that can help us think about the Feast of Christ the King. Do I make sense outside of Christ? Because I shouldn’t. When people look at me, does my life invite them of necessity to consider Jesus? Do they see my king?
Our gospel today deals with Jesus’s trial before Pilate. A certain scripture scholar wrote a book analysing the legal and so theological nature of the trial. The book has the wonderful title, Truth on Trial. In case it was not obvious, the title makes plain the irony of the scene. How can anyone judge Jesus?
But we all do. We all hold back parts of our lives from him. We all deny his kingship in little and big ways. But in a sense, the little and big ways are beside the point. When we deny his kingship in our lives, we deny him. We deny his divinity. We deny who he is.
Again, when we say out loud that we keep back parts of our lives from Jesus, we can hear how silly that sounds. It sounds silly not just because Jesus is God and therefore hiding from God is futile. But, more importantly, as we hear in our second reading, it is silly because his kingship is precisely one of love and mercy. He wants to wash away our sins in his blood. The parts that we hold back from God are in fact the parts that we should be rushing to entrust to him. They are the parts that need reforming. The parts that need healing. The parts that are hurting us and those around us. These are the parts that we keep from his kingship; and so we rob ourselves of the healing we so desperately need.
In a sense, when we do this, we seek to reverse the act of consecration. Instead of letting Jesus set us apart, set us apart from all that would hurt us, from all that would hold us back. Instead of allowing Jesus to heal us and bring us into the light, we try to set him apart from the concrete circumstances of our lives. We try to restrict the kingdom he has inaugurated. We try to contradict his order of love and peace.
Again, the question is: does my life look consecrated? Could anyone tell that Christ is my King by looking at my life? Do I follow his commands? Do I resist temptation just because I want to be faithful to Christ? Do I seek out his mercy when I fail? Do I act towards others as his precious brothers and sisters? Does Christ make any difference in my life? We should think about this daily.
Let’s pray then on this Feast of Christ the King and of the Presentation of our Lady, that we will take encouragement from the example of Mary, and entrust more and more of our lives to our King, whose law not only keeps all things in being, but is the only one that can free us and bring peace to our world.