Last week I was in Bloomington Indiana where I gave a retreat on the Apocalypse. The retreat conferences should be up on AirMaria at some point in the near future, at which time I will provide links here.
Today’s Solemnity of Christ the King is a reminder of Christ’s ultimate triumph over sin and death, as well as his ultimate control over history. The Apocalypse begins with St. John’s vision of Christ, who announces his definitive triumph over all dark forces:
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. . . . Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One. And I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades (Rev. 1: 8, 17-18).
After this announcement the rest of the Apocalypse is the proclamation and experience that the One who holds the keys of death grants life to all those who are faithful and persevere.
It is in the Apocalypse of St. John that the Greek mártys, martyr, literally “witness,” comes to mean one who dies giving testimony to Christ. In the Apocalypse there is no passage from the “present age” to the “age that is to come,” without passing through the mystery of the Cross. The one-hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed by the living God, stand before the throne and the Lamb and it is asked: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?” The answer: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 17:13-15). To wear white one must bleed red. This is the lot of those who follow Christ the King.
History teaches us that mankind is caught in a perennial crisis. The conflict between the light and darkness defines our experience of human history at the center of which is Christ the King, who reigns from the Cross. The Apocalypse is not so much the end of the world as it is the status quo across the ages—our age no more or less than any other. If the potential for evil in our age has multiplied exponentially because the works of human pride have come to full fruition, our time can claim for itself the graces given to the Christians of the early Church to whom the Apocalypse was addressed:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne (Rev. 3:20-21).
The other thing to remember about both the Kingship of Christ and the Apocalypse is that they are ecclesial realities. Both our personal and social apocalypses will be solved in and through the Church which is in crisis. The crisis within society and the Church is never an excuse to find solutions elsewhere. There have been many apocalyptic communities throughout history, who used crisis within the body of Christ an excuse to compromise their ecclesiality.
The social reign of Christ the King will come in and through the Church—always, even if we must pay for entrance with the price of our blood.