Star Wars, Christ the King and Advent Calendars
I’ve experienced a familiar challenge in recent weeks; trying to find Advent calendars for our grand-daughters which have even a remote connection with…well, Advent. Paw Patrol, Star Wars (really?!), Barbie (please NO!) all dominate the marketplace to the exclusion of anything that actually pertains to the sacred season itself.
The unexpected benefit of being confronted with what Advent clearly is not, is the challenge to reflect on what it is…what is its meaning, in my own faith journey? And this Advent, how might I “prepare the way for the Lord’s coming” in a meaningful, intentional way?
To begin with, wrapping up the liturgical year with the feast of Christ the King always seems to stir a little tension within me. It seems we’ve been confronted repeatedly, especially during recent times, with ways in which the image of Christ the King appropriated often within the Church (and, I admit, within my own sinful tendencies personally) has been an inauthentic, a false image.
An example of what Ignatius and St. Paul have both described as “an angel of darkness clothed as an angel of light”. The kind of king who allows us to “dress in fine robes while Christ stands naked outside” (St. John Chrysostom).
This king reflects not humility but triumphalism, not detachment but consumption, not loving inclusion of all but of judgmentalism and exclusivity. And in this Christ the “neither male nor female” principle of St. Paul is controverted, and “he” is unapologetically and inarguably male, with “female” painfully absent; absent as woman, yes, but also as anima – as feminine spirit.
Here is a king who is above it all, inaccessible to the loving intimacy which is the deepest expression of the heart of God in the life of humanity. And the false image of ourselves follows inexorably: we are the privileged ones who can simply bask in the reflected glory of this king.
John English S.J. once wrote that “images have the power to move the heart and bring about transformation” and I take great hope from, and am so very grateful for, the many ways in which so many women and men in the Church keep calling us back to the true image of Christ as King.
The King to whom Ignatius constantly directs us, and the very King who Christ in fact is; the humble leader who, by self-self-emptying example and by His extravagant grace, imbues in us the longing to collaborate with God in God’s labour of love in the world.
Pope Francis has asked us to pray deeply for our Church, especially during these times. I think of this particular Advent season as a kind of bridge between this feast of Christ the King, and the feast in December when together we sing of “glory to our new-born king”.
It seems a good time to pray that increasingly the image of “Christ the King” will be purified within the institutional Church, which Francis seeks so earnestly to reform, and within the hearts of each of us in our longing to bring about Christ’s reign of love.
The Preface from the liturgy of Christ the King describes this reign well; “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”
Perhaps we can also look at Advent as that liminal space from which we have enough perspective to look back several months to the moment when the loving plan of the Trinity first began take flesh; to that extraordinary young woman, Myriam, who on our behalf said “yes” to the God “who scattered the proud…put down the mighty …exalted the lowly…and sent the rich away empty”.
(As a citizen of one of the proudest, most prosperous and most empowered nations in history, this proclamation unsettles me every time!!!)
And a space from which we can look forward with trust to the experience again and again of the Trinity risking vulnerability for us, the Holy Selfgiving so profoundly articulated and enfleshed in the great feast for which Advent prepares us.
In a social economy where cynicism is traded far too readily, I hope to help inspire in my grand-daughters this gift of discerning trust. Trust in the constancy of God’s gifting of God’s very Self to the world. The kind of trust to which Thomas Keating referred when he wrote: “when you trust that we are all part of something beautiful beyond our wildest imagination, you will find healing”.
Beats the heck out of an Advent calendar!