Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Christ the King

Today in the Novus ordo it is the Solemnity of Christ the King.

With that in mind I was struck by a verse in the psalmody at Lauds yesterday in the Divine Office. It is from Ps.131 (132) and in it the Lord says of His anointed:

"But on him my crown shall shine"

Now clearly Christian interpretation of this points unequivocally to Christ as the Anointed One, and his crown in the Crown of Thorns. That is the nature of Divine Kingship.

However to the psalmist the anointed one may have been conceived as a Messianic but still human ruler. That tradition has survived into Christanity and its understanding of temporal, but nonetheless sacral, Kingship. The crown of an earthly King or Queen, Emperor or Empress is God's crown, and they hold delegated power on His behalf. They are consequently bound by that and responsible as Christians for the discharge of the office conferred upon them - it is not a grant of unlimited power but of a responsible office of service to God's people.

Hence the rituals surrounding the reception of the regalia - only the clergy and the monarch and their family, who participate in the royal dignity, are allowed to touch it in the ceremonial, as in Russia, and the physical crown is itself seen as a holy relic. Hence the especial status accorded to the coronation crowns of England, France, the Empire, Hungary and Bohemia.

There is a characteristically good passage on this in Aidan Nicols' The Realm.

Christ crowns King Roger II of Sicily

Image: Web Gallery of Art

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