Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reflection II: Kingship and Chastity

This Advent season, as we make "room in our hearts" for the coming of the Christ Child on December 25th, we continue our discussion on the importance and blessings of practicing chastity as followers of Christ who also happen to be childlovers. (For more on what Advent is, see this post.) 

Christ came wearing three hats. That is, He came as "Priest, Prophet, and King." He is our High Priest in that He offers sacrifice for the people (Himself), which is the main thing a priest does. He is the Prophet in the sense that He is the "Word" of God spoken through all the prophets and yet He Himself also proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God. And He is also King for two reasons: one is in fulfillment of God's promise to King David through his "son" "your throne shall be established forever" (2nd Samuel 7:16), but also because He exemplified the "kingship" that is chastity and self-mastery over Himself. He didn't come simply to "lord it over us" all these traits of His, but to be our example, that WE also may become "priests," "prophets," and "kings" along with and through Him. 

We are priests with Him when we follow his example and offer sacrifices in our own lives for others. We are prophets with Him when we follow His example and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. Most importantly for our discussion on chastity, we are kings with Him when we practice self-mastery and judicious kingship over all our various desires, thoughts, and deeds, following His example. None of these actions could merit any benefit for ourselves or others if He hadn't come, but since He came, He made it possible for the first time that we may also be "priests," "prophets," and "kings" with Him. Scripture paints King David as a prefiguring of the "priest-king" in 1st Chronicles 16:2-3 (as a king who offered sacrifices on the altar, blessed the people, and even gave bread to them during a sacrificial meal). This is no longer a duty reserved for men of high esteem like David though, but for every one of us in Christ. It was of the coming of the Christ Child as the most humble of kings that Isaiah prophesied: "...and a child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6). "Hark! the herald angel sing! Glory to the newborn King!"

King Joash
Israel actually had a number of "boy kings" throughout its history. Some were children and others were teens. Aside from David for example (who was anointed king in his youth), his son Solomon who built the Temple of the Lord (1st Kings 6:1) was probably in his adolescence when he became king, and Joash, who later repaired the Temple of the Lord, was only seven (2nd Kings 12:5)! Isn't it interesting then that Jesus, the infant Boy-King adored by the heavenly hosts, the shepherds, and the Magi, came to BE the definitive Temple of the Lord and made each of us "Temples" of the Holy Spirit along with Him? And just as we live in the Kingdom of God here on Earth among each other ("the Kingdom of God is already among you" (Luke 17:21), we ourselves are our own "kingdoms" within ourselves and we are "kings" over ourselves in Christ. This is important, because chastity ultimately is this "school of self-mastery" (as the Catechism teaches), and what is self-mastery but a form of kingship? But we can not truly be "kings" apart from Christ, who is "King" in essence, so we are more like vassal kings, but still rulers nonetheless.

A study of Israel's kings reveals that there are two basic kinds of kings. There are good kings and bad kings, and they are very easy to distinguish. The good kings are those who do what is "right in the eyes of the Lord" and the bad kings are those who "do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord." By doing what is right in the eyes of God, good kings usher in times of peace and prosperity. By doing what is evil in the eyes of God, bad kings usher in times of upheaval, war, and famine. If we are to be understood as kingdoms within ourselves, we are being asked, over ourselves, are we being good kings or bad kings? Are we doing what is right or are we doing evil in the eyes of God? Are we governing our passions and desires and mortifications in justice and moderation, or are we tyrants simply "lording" over ourselves, imposing our own will despotically? Are we at peace or are we at war with ourselves and others? Are we in abundance or are we in spiritual famine? In this, each of the kings of Israel can teach us something about ourselves as we try to live chaste and therefore "kingly" lives. Here are a few examples from scripture to orient us on how to govern ourselves justly when pursuing a life of "kingly" chastity.

Example: Despotic Kingship 

King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, is depicted in the book of 1st Kings as a despot and a tyrant. Taking after the bad example left by the later days of the reign of his father King Solomon, King Rehoboam says: "My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions!'" (1st Kings 12:11). Far from keeping the kingdom united by this, his ruthless and unjust style precipitated the division of the kingdom and caused the warrior Jeroboam to revolt and declare himself king in the north, a split with disastrous results. Who is King Rehoboam like? Rehoboam is not a "chaste" king. He doesn't govern his passions with justice, but seeks his own justice only to exterminate all "internal rebellion" by force, rejecting the words of the elders who tried to advise him: "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants" (1st Kings 12:7). Rehoboam rejected this advice (1st Kings 12:8). In other words, Rehoboam is like someone who tries to violently suppress his internal passions (sexual desires for instance) with a kind of tyrannical approach, and rather than keeping the kingdom (or the self) together, ends up tearing it in two. In living a chaste life, don't be like King Rehoboam. 

Example: Indulgent Kingship

But even as harsh as King Rehoboam governed, at least he still made an attempt at preserving unity, even if it was bound to fail. Later on came the reign of King Manasseh, a king so wicked and obstinate against the Lord that he didn't just divide the land but brought about its complete destruction and exile. Manasseh waged a war against God similar to that of the Pharaoh during the Exodus. "Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel" (2nd Chronicles 33). He erected idols in the Temple, ordered that they be worshiped, and slaughtered his own people mercilessly (including the prophet Isaiah, who tradition tells us he had publicly sawed in half like many of the Jews who loved the Lord (Hebrews 11:37)).

What Manasseh was doing was waging a war against his own father, the good King Hezekiah, who had previously sought the Lord and reintroduced worship of the Lord back into Judah (2nd Kings 18). Manasseh sought to overturn and dismantle everything his father loved, in a vengeful, spiteful, retaliatory and ultimately self-indulgent way. Later, scripture tells of how Manasseh "came to his senses" and repented of the horrors his wrath had unleashed (2nd Chronicles 33:12-13), but the damage was already done to Israel. The Lord, despite hundreds of years of patience, finally forsook the Kingdom of Judah and they were captured by the Babylonians. Who is King Manasseh like? He is the one who revels in his sin, doesn't govern himself with justice, and don't even seek justice, but just total retaliatory self-abasement. In living a chaste life, don't be like King Manasseh.

Example: Chaste Kingship

How should we be though? Ultimately, we know King David and his story prefigures the Kingship of Christ. Both came up out of poverty. Both were pursued by a wicked king who sought to put them to death (for David it was King Saul and for Jesus it was King Herod). David revealed what mankind was and our need for God's mercy in his temptation and sin. Jesus revealed what mankind can be under God's direction in His temptation in the desert and how He resisted it. David was "a man after God's own heart." Christ WAS the Sacred Heart. "After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do'" (Acts 13:22).

Where King Saul was stubborn and steadfast in his way like someone who tries to decide when and how he wants to be chaste (and only when he wants to be), David (though imperfect) always sought repentance for his sins and went the Lord's way. Meanwhile Christ IS the way (John 14:6). "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). There are many other parallels that can be drawn, but ultimately David represents for us the best example of a king who governed with justice and ushered in a time of peace and the blessing of a dynasty after his name, even to the point where Christ Himself is referred to as "son of David" (Mark 10:47). In living a chaste life, be like King David, who was "like Christ" (aka. "Christian"). This is another way of saying, "be like Christ." And how does Christ say we should be as kings? Like He is, humble:
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:10-12).  
Socrates once said, very wisely, "Let him who would move the world first move himself." It takes great humility to govern anything, especially ourselves! Chastity is not about suppressing desires, nor is it about merely indulging them, but is about learning how to govern them with justice and moderation. It is the "full integration of sexuality within the human person." Being a tyrant over them will only cause internal rebellion and division. Being in rebellion though will only bring about one's calamity and destruction. The chaste person governs his passions moderately and without sin, that is to say, with true justice. He keeps his "hands clean and his heart pure" (Psalm 24:4). Like David, he acknowledges his internal struggles before the Lord and draws strength from God to persevere and to guide his steps ("The Lord is my shepherd..." (Psalm 23). And then after he has done these things, he puts his energies and talents to good use for the SERVICE of others.

Perhaps God is calling you to be a good king over yourself that you may be a servant for others, perhaps for children this holiday season. Here's a practical suggestion for how to do it: Instead of spending time within the various message boards and internet communities for Childlovers prattling on as you know they always do, set time apart to donate to some cause for needy children instead, even if it's just some food for the local church or community collection. Or go buy a toy, a blanket, or something comfortable for a child in need and donate it to the local church or community collection, or make it an anonymous gift to a family and just leave it at their doorstep! 
"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."(Mark 9:35). 
Remember, Christ's "hat" (His crown) was not made of gold, but of thorns. What is yours made of? "Poor men want to be rich, rich men want to be kings, but a king ain't satisfied 'till he rules everything." -Bruce Springsteen ("Badlands")

What rules you? 

1 comment:

  1. That hit the spot.
    I feel anointed with the light of Christ.
    Baptized in the living dew of the Holy Spirit.

    Thanks buddy!


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