The only-begotten Son of the Father became man in order to redeem mankind. In that redeeming mission He came as TEACHER (Prophet) to free man from the darkness of error, and to point out the way of truth, the way to heaven. He came as PRIEST to offer sacrifice in reparation for the sins of mankind, and to win back for the human race the divine life of grace and access to heaven lost by the sin of Adam. He came as KING to conquer Satan and his kingdom established at the fall of Adam, thus liberating mankind from his dominion, and to establish on earth the Kingdom of God made up of the redeemed. It is on this third aspect of Christ’s redeeming mission that our present reflections are focused. While we dwelt on this topic at length in vol. 48, n.1 under the title “Thy Kingdom Come,” in this issue we consider more in detail the reign of Christ in the individual soul.
As Pope Pius XI pointed out in his encyclical on Christ the King, Christ’s kingship is founded on the ineffable “hypostatic union,” that is, the union between the human nature of Christ and the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. By reason of that union Christ as man transcends every creature, even the highest angels who must adore and serve Him. St. John testifies that Christ is King of all creation, since all things were made through Him. (Jn.1:3) And as St. Cyril of Alexandria pointed out, “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but His by essence and by nature."
Not only does Christ’s kingship stem from his very nature, but He also acquired the right to kingship “by reason of conquest,” for He purchased us by His sacrifice on Calvary, redeeming us from the slavery of sin and Satan. That is why St. Paul reminds the Corinthians
All men, unbelievers as well as believers, are completely subject to the sovereign dominion of Christ. All are subject to His Kingship even though some refuse to accept Him as King, or submit to Him. At the end of time Christ’s temporal power will be manifest, and all will submit to his rule willingly or not, to the eternal anguish of those who refused to recognize and submit to His authority during their life on earth.
As Jesus testified before Pilate, He is a King, but His Kingdom “is not of this world.” (Jn. 18:36) His kingdom is in the world, but not of the world. That is, He does not rely on temporal power as worldly kingdoms do, but spiritual power. He rules not by physical force in the conquest of nations, but by the conquest of minds and hearts by means of divine grace. His Kingdom (the Church) is indeed in the world, but its purpose, its power, and it means of conquest are of the spiritual order, and ordained for their final fulfillment in the world to come. Too, it is a kingdom “not of this world” inasmuch as it establishes and imposes principles which are folly to the world, principles quite contrary to those by which the world is run. It is a kingdom in which subjects obey (not by force, but freely) out of love; but it is a kingdom where that freedom can be abused, where the will of Christ the King can be rejected. Our Blessed Lord seeks to reign in our minds and hearts through the virtues of faith, hope and love, which find expression in the acknowledgment of His dominion, and the return of His love through obedience to His will. Although Christ is the source of all power and authority on earth, during his public life He fled from the crowd when they wanted to declare Him their king, their temporal ruler. As St. John relates: “When Jesus perceived that they would come to take Him by force and make him king, He fled again to the mountains, himself alone.” (Jn.6:15)
The Kingdom of Christ is one of peace, of justice and love. Such will be the state of affairs if his teachings are accepted and put into practice. His laws are needed to keep our selfish and unruly tendencies in check, for He knows well the weaknesses of our fallen nature, and the evil that humans are capable of if left to themselves. For that reason, where His teachings are rejected we have the opposite: wars, injustice and hatred. How clearly the world situation of today verifies this.
We live in a troubled world in which injustice, hatred and lawlessness are commonplace. Yet still Christ greets each of us as He greeted the apostles: "Peace be with you." If we acknowledge His dominion, remember that we are subjects of His Kingdom and members of His Body, and strive to maintain justice and charity in our dealings with others, that peace He offered can be ours, regardless of the turmoil in the world around us.
God is a pure spirit, and dwells personally in the soul by means of the two spiritual faculties - intellect and will. The object of the intellect is TRUTH, which in the order of nature is attained by the light of reason. The object of the will is the GOOD which the will chooses. But to attain the supernatural truth and good for which we were created, the intellect (with its power of reason) must be further enlightened by the light of faith; and the will must be further perfected and strengthened by the infused virtue of charity which enables one to love God above all things. So the intellect is perfected by the TRUTH that is God (Jn.14:6), and the will is perfected by the LOVE that is God (1 Jn. 4:8). It is by means of the gift of faith that Christ the King guides and reigns in the mind of man; and by means of the infused virtues of charity and hope the He reigns in the will or heart of man.
Yet, the will is a blind faculty. It can choose only what the intellect (the light of the soul) presents to it as good. However, the soul is united with the body which has its own needs; and because of original sin the body tends to demand its own satisfactions inordinately. The body must be subject to the soul, if it is to function as God intends; but unfortunately, the opposite is often the case, namely, the body gets its own way even when it seeks satisfactions that are not lawful. But we might ask, how can this be - since the will can choose something only under the aspect of good?
The body has its natural and legitimate demands, and the intellect presents these to the will as good. But, as we said, the body tends to demand satisfactions that are not legitimate; and because the intellect has been obscured by original sin, its vision can be so clouded by the passionate clamoring of the body that it presents to the will some inordinate demand of the body here and now as good, or as theologians express it, as an “apparent good.” In this way the will chooses what is evil, but under the appearance of something good.
In all this we see the interaction between the body and soul, between intellect and will, which instead of functioning as God intended, has been fouled up by original sin. All this may be a bit confusing, but if understood, it helps to see what is needed if Christ is to reign in the soul. We can see how grace is needed to enlighten the mind as to what is truly good, and to strengthen the will to choose what is truly good even when difficult; for due to original sin, the will is self-seeking, whereas to live the Christian life it must become self-sacrificing.
We have been created by God for the manifestation of His glory, and we give Him glory in the measure that His will is fulfilled in us. He reigns in our soul in the measure that our mind is guided by his Truth, and our will chooses what pleases Him. But due to our fallen nature, we tend to seek our own glory instead of God’s - which is the essence of pride. The virtue of humility is needed to counter that pride, bringing about the submission of both the mind and the will to God; for only then does Christ the King truly reign in the soul.
We are not humble by nature. In fact, as we just saw, the opposite is true. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great mind and great saint that he was, well aware that pride is a great stumbling block in the matter of faith. That is why he pointed out that “humility removes pride - whereby a man refuses to submit himself to the truth of faith.” (II II, 4,7) Such a one refuses what St. Paul calls the "obedience of faith." (Rom. 1:5; 16:27)
God, who is infinite Truth, has created the human intellect capable of knowing truth, and has given the baptized the gift of faith enabling one to share in God’s own knowledge. Yet, as we pointed out, the gift of faith needs the virtue of humility to safeguard it, to check that pride which hinders the humble submission of the mind to the truth of faith and gives rise to dissent. However, there are many who prefer to be guided by the light of reason alone, for they are unwilling to humble the mind to accept some teaching handed down by the Church merely on the authority of another - even though that authority is God Himself.
After testifying before Pilate that He was a King, Christ said: “For this was I born and for this I came into the world: that I should give testimony of the truth.” (Jn. 18:37) To reject that truth is to reject Christ, for he declared “I am the Truth.” (Jn. 14:6)
Every member of the human race, whether he knows it or not, is a member of one or the other of two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God, or the kingdom of the Evil One. There is no middle or neutral course. “He that is not with Me, is against Me.” (Mt. 12:30) Either one is in the state of grace, and is a member of the Kingdom of God, or is not, and comes under the dominion of the devil. While that statement is true, we must be very careful about judging particular individuals in that regard, for only God knows what goes on in every individual soul. In each of these two kingdoms there are countless degrees of difference as to the extent of one’s allegiance to the leader of his or her choice. Even if we feel quite sure that we are in God’s friendship, if we are honest, we will have to admit that Christ’s reign in our soul encounters many obstacles. “We must see ourselves,” says Fr. Gerald Vann, O.P., “unless we are deluded, as at best torn between two kingdoms, as acknowledging Christ indeed with our lips, but betraying Him in our lives.” (Of His Fullness, P. 153)
As we have pointed out, there are many in whom God dwells through grace, but whose heart is divided between God and the satisfactions of this world. St. Ambrose spoke of this when he said that there are as many kings ruling in our heart as there are sins and vices controlling us.
However, once a choice is made that is incompatible with friendship with God, as Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. explains,“where the spirit of Christ no longer reigns, the deadly spirit of evil takes its place.” (Love of God and the Cross of Jesus, p. 314) Those who reject the dominion of Christ, automatically place themselves under the dominion of the great enemy of souls. Those who declare themselves “pro choice” in regard to abortion for instance, do not realize how far reaching are the effects of that choice, and who it is that is behind the inspirations that guide them.
On the other hand, there are those whose goal in life is to let Christ live His life in them, by striving to share his redeeming mission through recognizing and bearing patiently the crosses and trials of daily life, to make the sacrifices needed to keep His commandments and fulfill the duties of their state in life. In such souls the throne of Christ is center stage. There he truly reigns.
Because of all the selfish inclinations of our fallen nature, there must be frequent discipline of those self-seeking tendencies. That inordinate self-love is the root source of all our problems as Fr. Victorino Osende, O.P. explains:
However, the weaknesses of our fallen nature are not overcome easily or quickly. Ours may be a life-long struggle in that direction, and may leave us feeling we have made little progress. Yet that very struggle merits an increase of grace which, in turn, increases the extent of our submission to Christ’s dominion over us. We have to keep coming back to the fact that it is self-seeking that radically opposes the kingdom of God, and self-sacrificing that unites us with our Redeemer-King, removing the obstacles to His reign in the soul. We may be greatly distressed and even critical about the rejection of God’s revelation and rule in today’s world, but as Fr. Vann reminds us, “We shall not be in a position to work adequately for the spread of the kingdom (of Christ) unless and until the kingdom is established in our own souls.” (ibid.)
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