When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.
If today's spirituality is more concerned with presence and awareness, and less fascinated by power and authority, we may be challenged by traditional images of "Jesus Christ the King." Words like everlasting dominion, glory and kingship rest uneasily on the humble image of one riding a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Toward the beginning of the thirteenth century, as merchants and skilled workers started forming a new "middle class," Saint Francis of Assisi imagined what few others could not see. He was familiar with pomp, wealth, power and all their trappings. He watched kings and emperors parade through Assisi, with their knights in armor and beautiful women in medieval splendor. They demonstrated great authority as they tossed coins to impoverished peasants. Their magnanimity purchased loyalty and love, and secured their popularity. The powerful had no need to demonstrate humility but their condescension was admired and appreciated. Such displays also inspired dread and suppressed insurrection before it happened.
These demonstrations proved what everyone knew: that God had ordained a few to rule, regardless of their ability or worth; and others to be ruled, regardless of their intelligence or dignity. The elect should live in opulence; the majority, in poverty. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be...
Francis never challenged that philosophy. With everyone else in that universally-Catholic era, he believed in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is King of kings, emperors and popes; and Lord of Lords.
But Francis also visualized the Lord of the Universe as the Crucified Servant of God. He pondered the humility of God, often weeping copiously at the thought of Divine Dignity being subject to poverty, humiliation, torture and brutal murder. It staggered his medieval imagination that the Creator and Lord of the Universe should abandon the security and opulence of heaven to abide in the poor hovels of earth.
He considered also the Holy Family, especially the Virgin Queen who gave birth in a lowly manger, far from her home in Nazareth. She, the Child and the noble Joseph had fled by night like so many refugees into Egypt.
Singularly blessed with such insight, Francis understood and contemplated these paradoxes as few people ever had. With his talent for enthusiastic speaking, he communicated the wonder to his friars and fellow citizens until the whole Church experienced a rebirth of wonder. Because of his teaching we now imagine the Lord God born in poverty, crucified in agony, and buried in ignominy; but, unfortunately, we are not so amazed by these mysteries.
The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord invites us to ponder God's humility. As nations amass the power to destroy all human life, and their leaders threaten one another with "CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," we do well to consider the one who