O Rex Gentium

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” (O Antiphon for Dec 22nd)

Of all the titles of Christ given in these antiphons, I find the notion expressed in today’s antiphon the most difficult to see my way clear to. The others all seem to allow a kind of "religious" perspective to them – “light” and “wisdom” and other even more abstract ideas. I don’t mean by that to contrast the obvious political character of the idea of King of nations against "religion" as if religion were a non-political aspect of life – nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I do not see how political life can be lived apart from religion, and political approaches that seek to marginalize religion cannot suppress "religion" itself, but only religious virtues and particular religious character – leaving an impoverished shell in place that is not some kind of non-religion, but a caricature of religion, set in the service of the prevailing ideology. No society is possible without some kind of shared framework of values and belief.

Instead, what I mean by the "religious perspective" of the first five titles in the sequence is almost the same thing as their political potentiality. What I mean is that they can be viewed as possessing some particular meaning, in some way, to a people to whom they appear not to be addressed. What I mean is that there are ways to see them in a less-than-catholic, less-than-universal light. That’s simply not the case with the antiphon today.

In proclaiming Christ "King of all the nations," there is only a total, subject "us" to be found; there is no "them." In this view, there is really only one relationship of true otherness, and that is the relationship between God and His People – and even that is transcended in Christ, as we explicitly celebrate in tomorrow’s antiphon.