As I stepped out of my parents home this morning, ready to make the journey to morning Mass, I sniffed the air. At this time of year I am used to smelling the sweet smell of woodsmoke in the cold winter air, but this morning there was a sweeter tinge yet still. Frankincense? Could it be? Burning on a wood fire? Unlikely, I thought, but appropriate. Perhaps it was my imagination.
Today is one of my all time favourite feasts. I have written about it before. The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The Gospel today (Year C) surprised me. I have stuck in my head that on the Feast of Christ the King the Gospel will be taken from Matthew, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Perhaps that is a history of too many youth Sunday 'performances'. Today though, the Gospel was taken from Luke's account of the Passion. It sounds at first as though it should have been read on Good Friday, as though the priest has turned to the wrong page in the lectionary. But, no. This is Christ, on the verge of death, heralding new life in a new kingdom. Yes, he is a king, but his kingdom is not of this world. But, to the repentant thief, 'today, you will be with me in paradise'. Christ is dying, but he is on the verge of resurrection. He is judged by those around him, 'If you really are the Son of God, save yourself and us as well!', but is about to become the judge of all peoples. He is mocked as the 'King of the Jews', but is the King of the Universe. The one with, to quote Graham Kendrick (*unusual*), 'hands that struck stars into space to cruel nails surrendered'. The servant king.
After a few moments thought I fell in love with this reading. How reflective is it of the time of year we are now in? The trees are ablaze with colour: red, yellow, auburn, purple, orange. The sun sets low in the sky each afternoon, turning the horizon a dramatic range of warm reds and oranges. Nature is dying. Soon, as we move into Advent, the trees will turn barer still, the ground will freeze. Everything will gain that quality of stillness only ice cold temperatures can bring. It will seem as if everything is dead. As the weeks go by, and days get shorter still, we will begin to decorate our houses with signs of hope that life will come again: evergreen holly with deep red berries, fir cones, lights, poinsettias, mistletoe. Then, finally, at Christmas, we will welcome the eternally youthful king incarnate, and behold, he will make all things new. Meanwhile, in the frozen earth nature will be doing her thing, slowly preparing for her resurrection, her time to make all things new too. It will not appear that way though. For months we will be deceived into wondering if spring will ever arrive, and not even the best gardner will be able to tell you the day or the hour.
And so continued my thoughts about the feast of Christ the Universal King, the one who was, and is, and is to come. The one seen and unseen: 'the image of the unseen God, and the first-born of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible' (Colossians 1: 12 - 20).
After Mass I came home and made the most almighty fry up. I toasted some fluffy bottom of the oven barm buns, and covered them with lashings of butter. Then I served bacon, sausages and fried eggs on top. I made a big pot of tea, and we all sat round and chatted the morning away.