"Calendars form us. Calendars help to define us as the people we are."
I am once again happy to participate in another blog tour conducted by the fine people at Image Books. This time around, I will be analyzing a chapter in the upcoming book The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us As Catholics by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina. This new volume is the third book in a series that the two have published together, following the success of The Mass and The Church. All three are wonderful resources that examine key elements of the Church's life. One of the great things that I have noticed with this series of books is that they are engaging to the newcomer as well as one who has been involved in the Church for years. In particular, I highly recommend them to all who are looking to explain the faith to those Catholics who are disengaged from the faith. These books are great resources for the New Evangelization.
The Feasts is focused on the liturgical calendar and how it shapes our faith life. As the promotional material puts it: "Each chapter uncovers the biblical origins and development of one of the great feasts or fasts — Advent, Epiphany, the Holy Angels, all the Marian feasts, and even this very day." This is a wonderful help, since I think must of us are unaware of the history behind many of the great feasts of our Church calendar. While we may certainly feel pretty confident in our understandings of feasts like Christmas and Easter, what about the various feasts of Our Lady or Corpus Christi? One particular joy for me was to see that the first feast to be discussed in this book is Sunday. How often do we forget that every Sunday is meant to be a feast day where we can celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord? Some get caught up in the idea that for Catholics Sunday is an obligation, yet Wuerl and Aquilina remind us that Sunday worship was something distinctive for early Christians (56). It marked out their identity in a Roman world that was at times hostile. They realized that coming together to celebrate the feasts of the Lord was deeply tied into their identity. However, it wasn't a simple group meeting time either for fellowship, but rather a time when they could be empowered by the living God. The authors remind us that "God wants to feed us and fill us, so he gives us banquets at which we can feast spiritually (11)." The early Christians knew this, so we need to remind our fellow Catholics, those who have perhaps lost their way, that Our Lord desires to nourish us.
I have been asked to comment on chapter 13, which is entitled: "The Solemnity of Christ the King and the Other Feasts of Jesus." I love the feast of Christ the King. Being an American, the idea of kingship can at times be a bit foreign, however, if you spends anytime in the Old Testament you can't avoid the importance of kingship. It pervades the historical book, the prophets, as well as the wisdom literature. See Psalms 93 and 97 for some examples. When we move to the New Testament what do we see? We see our Lord who is hailed as the Messiah (which is a kingly term meaning "anointed one") as he enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The entire Passion narrative in John focuses on the fact that Jesus is truly a king, with his throne being the cross. So, kingship is an important biblical theme, even if it seems "outdated" or "irrelevant" in today's world.
That is one reason why the Church instituted this feast, in order to remind us of this reality. Of course, this feast is not an ancient one, but one of the newer ones. It was added in 1925 by Pope Pius XI and given a different date in the post Vatican II calendar. The full title of the feast, which is really important, is: Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (113). He isn't just the king of Europe or America or Mexico, but the true king of the entire universe. His reign extends to every inch of the created cosmos. Our authors remind us that this feast was instituted in reaction to the rise of totalitarian regimes that based their authority on man and not on God. For Christ, all things are under "his feet (Ps.110)." Unlike those who claim kingly authority on their own, Christ shows what is the meaning of true kingship: He is a king who came to serve. He is the model king of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. His kingship is one, not of domineering, but of love: "Christ conquers not by violence but by persevering love (115)."
One final note on this feast, which is placed at the end of the liturgical calendar. It reminds us that while Christ has conquered on the cross and his Church proclaims this victory, we still await the return of the king. The king who came into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, will come again in glory and power, "on the clouds." I think that is one of the reasons I so love this feast. It reminds me that God is in control and that the whole universe is his dominion. "Your kingdom come!" "Come Lord Jesus!"
Thank you to Image Books for providing me with a review copy.