Today is the Sunday Next Before Advent, and under the new calendar shared by Anglicans, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics, it is Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday of the Christian year.
Jesus Christ is King. In his famous Tome, Pope Leo I reminds us:
He took on the aspect of servitude without the stainof sin; He added to the humanity but did not lessen the divinity. For that putting of of self whereby He the invisible made Himself visible and as Creator and Lord of all things wished to become one of the mortals was an inclination to mercy, not a failure of power. He who keeping the form of God created man, the same was made man in an aspect of servitude. (Ep. 28, trans. Edmund Hunt, p. 96)
In one of his many balanced statements stressing the duality of Christ throughout the Tome, Leo also says, ‘the Lord of the universe assumed the aspect of servitude with a shadow veiling the immensity of his majesty.’ (Hunt, p. 97)
In Sermon 9.2, Leo addresses this week’s Gospel reading, Matthew 25:31-46 — ‘The Sheep and the Goats’ — and says:
Let those who want Christ to spare them have compassion for the poor. Let those who desire a bond with the fellowship of the blessed be ‘readily disposed’ toward nourishing the wretched. No human being should be considered worthless by another. That nature which the Creator of the universe made his own should not be looked down upon in anyone. Is it permitted for any of the hired hands to refuse that payment which the Lord declares to have been given him? Your fellow servant receives assistance, and the Lord returns thanks. Food for someone in need is the cost of purchasing the kingdom of heaven, and the one who is geneorus with temporal things is made heir of the eternal. (trans. Freeland and Conway, p. 40)
That passage was preached in November 443 at a service where Leo went on to encourage the Christians of Rome to give generously to the poor. Here we see the ethical implications of our Christology.
Christ is King, He rules over all the universe. As God, he is the ultimate King and, like a King of days of old, an ultimate Judge. He is perfect and sufficient in himself. Yet this mighty King, as we saw in the Tome and John 1, took on flesh and pitched His tent among us.
How, then, can we look down upon the poor, the sick, the needy, the disabled, the elderly, those of lower classes, those of lesser education, those in professions of compromised morality? These are people whom the King of All became like; he took on the same nature of any and all humans.
Therefore, we should have compassion on the lowly, the poor, the outcast. We should love them with real love, bring them both tangible and spiritual grace and benefits. This is what Leo, and his monastic contemporaries, calls us to do.
And here I preach as much to myself as to the faceless readers on the Internet.
Amen. Lord, have mercy upon us.