I've been thinking a lot about the Sunday just past, and I think we as a church have a problem.
The Episcopal Church does not call the last Sunday of the Church year “Christ the King.” In our Prayer Book it is simply “The Last Sunday after Pentecost.” Yes, our prayers and lessons are about the kingship of Christ. At Solemn Mass and at Evensong we will sing some of the greatest hymns on this theme. I think our Episcopal Church’s particular decision merits wider and greater appreciation.
Since its earliest days the Church has had a feast of the kingship of Christ. It’s Epiphany, which along with Easter, Pentecost and Christmas are the great ancient celebrations of the Church. Note that aside from Trinity Sunday, the liturgical tradition does not have thematic Sunday observances. Our celebrations are rooted in the historical events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Our days and our lives find their meaning in his life, in his gospel.
"From the Rector: Commitment to Christ" St. Mary the Virgin, New York, Volume XI, Number 52, November 22, 2009
I have a modest proposal: that we stop slapping the words "Christ the King" or -- the silly attempt at neutral language -- "Reign of Christ" on our service leaflets without thinking why we are doing so.
Might "Christ the King" join the ranks of "Good Shepherd Sunday" and "Laetare Sunday" and "Gaudete Sunday" as a nickname, and not a feast unless this is what the church really wants?
Absolutely that's what the lessons are about, but aren't we robbing Epiphany of it's full meaning?
Our 1979 Prayer Book lists Epiphany as a Principal Feast -- yet how many parishes fail to celebrate it at all?
Rather than over-solemnify a name given to this Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary let us carefully ponder the theological importance of what we are doing and reclaim the full celebration of Epiphany as one on par with the other six Principal Feasts of the church: Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and All Saints.
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