CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS

"Christ Crowned with Thorns," Horace Pippin, 1938. On the Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe, who is so often either spat upon-or ignored.

Blessed High High Feast/Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe.

I went to a vigil Mass last night (preceded by Confession and then what I’d hoped would be an hour of prayer but what was actually the guy two pews ahead looking at his phone for an hour (okay but why not stay in your car?) and another guy audibly intoning the Rosary (or something, thereby making peace or recollection of any kind impossible).

During Mass, there was absolutely zero visible  enthusiasm or life from either the priest or the parishioners on this momentous occasion: the last Sunday before Advent begins; a day when we are especially called to recognize and rejoice over our BELOVED SAVIOR WHO RULES O’ER HEAVEN AND EARTH!!!!

HORRIBLE hymns the tune of which no-one could follow (though no-one hardly would have sung anyway). Horrible responsorial antiphon. All I could think was–And I think no-one recognizes ME? Imagine Christ, on this, one of Very Special Days…the world, including his own followers (including of course me), passing him by…

Every time I look at Christ on the Cross lately, I think of my late friend Dennis, of whom I’ve written before. Dennis was shot in a convenience store holdup at the age of 18, rendered a paraplegic, and lived the next 55 or so years in a wheelchair. All that time, his spine was basically deteriorating, so he was in constant, chronic pain.

They never caught the guy who shot him. I once asked Dennis, “How do you feel about that? Are you resentful?”

He said, “Nah. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, and I was doing what I was supposed ot be doing that day. I can’t afford resentment. My body’s shit, so I HAVE to keep my spirit in halfway decent shape.”

Or as someone else once said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Like Jesus nailed to the Cross, Dennis couldn’t get away from the many people who besieged him: wanted to seek his counsel, longed for a kind word, just wanted to touch his hand because he was a champion who ran his course and everyone who ever met him could see it, and bowed before it.

He couldn’t get away either from people who wanted to tell him long, boring stories, or talk trash about someone, or pour out their self-pity. At the 12-step meetings where I saw him, he had his special corner and it’s not like he couldn’t navigate his chair–he drove himself to the clubhouse–but he would just sit there patiently with a welcoming smile and a wisecrack and after the meeting kind of hold court. When he was ready to go, he’d cry, “Step aside, minions!” crack up laughing, and zip out.

But he was nailed to the cross of his chair.

Christ is like that, too, except he’s also nailed in place when people come to spit on him and throw stones and jeer and spew hatred.

And when he walks about among us, no-one hardly notices or recognizes him. I’ve thought of that lately, too, in these days of early winter when I always feel especially keenly the exile and loneliness of the human condition.

Especially living and working by myself, I’m always eager for a nod of recognition, the merest smile, a tiny act of courtesy–the person on the sidewalk who steps aside with their dog, or thanks you for stepping aside. I’m alert to people’s faces, to their personhood, to the (of course unvoiced) fact that Hey we’re both alive! Breathing! Walking! Look at that huge Western sky! How about those clouds! Look, the Christmas lights are coming on already!

But 90% of the time–nothing. Oblivious. Apparently even to say Hi now marks you out as an insane person, to be shunned and avoided. Hi? you can hear the person thinking. Go back to the asylum, Granny. What the f is WRONG with you??

What I’ve been thinking is-Isn’t that exactly the way we are with Christ? He too walks about with a little spark of hope, thirsting for connection, eager to respond to the slightest invitation, ready and willing to meet us so much more than halfway! Knock and the door shall be opened, seek and ye shall find. And we’re scurrying along thinking, Should I buy the dark chocolate or the milk? IS Alex Murdaugh guilty? Isn’t that Kari Lake vile?

Like us, in other words, Christ gets looked at either when we need something from him or when we want to blame him for something. And the rest of time he’s ignored.

In my Ignatian Exercises, whenever I feel conflicted or frightened (i.e. all the time) or bewildered or attacked, I’m being encouraged to think of Christ in a similar situation and ask him: What was that like for you?

Last time I spoke to my spiritual director, I was saying I didn’t think I felt equal to some task or other (probalby just living another day). I didn’t feel equal to my little mission on earth

She paused for a second, then asked: Do you think Jesus felt equal to his?

23 Replies to “CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS”

  1. Phillip Aller says: Reply

    Wow you’re something Heather. Another service ace!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Phillip, bless you! And Happy Thanksgiving…

  2. Valorie Shue says: Reply

    Crown Him with many crowns, indeed. The Anglicans sure know how to praise the Lord. I loved the queen’s yellow suit. I think that color is similar to the one that the poet Amanda Gorman wore at Biden’s inauguration.
    We have a newly ordained young priest at our parish. He is trying to shake us out of our complacency. I so appreciate his zeal. Let our hearts be bold.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha, the Westminster Abbey was the best I could find on YouTube. The hymn (one of my favorites from childhood) was in both Catholic hymnals at Mass last night so we COULD have sung it…anyway, I wish your young priest every blessings. Of course we can’t work up some kind of fake enthusiasm, which is just as awful, in another way, as a dead spirit..”The best lack all conviction, while the wulorst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Hopefully we lost sheep serve a purpose, even if we veer too far one way or the other…

      Our vitality, such as it is, has to come from within. From observing people whose spirit has been an attraction to me, it seems you can’t strain for it but if you truly live by Christ you also couldn’t hide it if you tried…It’s probably always been like this…for all of us, religious and laypeople: what appears to be very low energy for the most part. Then again, none of us know the hidden lives of suffering and sacrifice of another. I just so wanted us all to sing, joyfully, to the Lord!!

  3. Thank you for writing and, “Hey we’re both alive! Breathing! Walking! Look at that huge Western sky! How about those clouds! Look, the Christmas lights are coming on already!”

    Christ is King!
    ❤️🙏

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      He damn well is!!! The Alpha and the Omega, as it was, is now, and ever shall be…

  4. Please God forgive us our humanity. You are the King of my heart; especially when I’m not behaving like it. And, yes, although I’d probably be walking my big gawky lab on Oak Island in NC – I would catch your eye and gladly chat ( probably to apologize for the slobber on your coat from my dog). Jane

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Aw thanks, Jane–if I am ever find myself strolling around Oak Island, NC, and spot a fellow traveler with a gawky Lab I am definitely stopping to chat!!

  5. Absolutely! What ever became of the Vatican II declaration that the Mass was meant to be a celebration? We have gone so far backwards. The choir is back to being performers instead of being leaders of worship from within the congregation. The priests themselves are many times as bored, and boring, as the congregation. The rigid formality of it all, and the choice is songs/music, is uninspiring and out of touch certainly with anyone under the age of say seventy. Sigh.
    Yet travel to a ‘third world’ country where the restrictions are less you will find a full vocal congratulation that is engaged and participating (even dancing).
    If Vatican II was meant to open the window to allow the inflow of the Holy Spirit perhaps it’s now time to open the dam(n) door!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Hi Peter, right! I’m beyond grateful for the Mass, any Mass…but a litle joy, a little vitality…for Christ!…would be so welcome. What does it really mean to be pro–FOR–life? This kind of deadness and dourness and extremely low affect that seems to characterize so much of “parish life” at any given church is hardly an attraction…nonetheless, I’m as guilty as anyone else and our inability or reluctance to acknowledge one another as human beings may be the peculiar sign of our times. And if I’m bothered, then it’s even more incumbent on me to welcome The Other as I can. Anyway, let’s take a page from those Third World countries and dance, if only inwardly….

  6. The mighty two-by-four between the eyes. Thank you for living your vocation. (For the record, I’m a crazy lady who says hi and smiles to everyone, too. It’s not always returned but I have had consolation from someone who is very, very away from home – and she said I was a light to her last year in the darkness.) Heather, thank you.

  7. hi heather!
    that’s what i am thinking too.why is nobody honoring him? delighted? enthusiastic?
    and what you said about how crazy you look when you are human out of the ordinary is so true! for looking up at the tree to see the branches sway in the wind you could be arrested.why are you standing here? what are you looking at? and then try to say that you are looking at the wind.
    it is fearful not to be like every one else!it is fearful to be still human; like in compassion,joy, patience.
    what are we doing?
    and the only solution is to hold on to Jesus. and to seek him. and not give up. and to live the fruit of the spirit. its all about you. you do whats right. you do what is human . you do enthusiasm.
    for yourself and God.

  8. Kathy Wikman says: Reply

    Heather, I continue to enjoy your reflections. I think we probably tend to opposite sides of the political spectrum, but in so many other ways our experiences are proof of common ground. I went to Mass this morning and found the atmosphere a bit below my expectations, but thanks to that (somehow evasive) Holy Spirit, it was OK to pray as if no one else existed. I used to be concerned that other people might label me some kind of religious Pharisee showing off my righteousness, but now my biggest focus is Jesus and time with Him—- especially after Holy Communion. In the early days of my conversion (14 years) I would get openly teary eyed after receiving; I still do but not as often. I do always get peace.

    The biggest “bell ringer” in your comments (aside from your story of Dennis and AA) brought a sigh — how often I too look for a nod of recognition, a smile, a “hello.” I’m very much an introvert, but gosh, how come that “fellowship” time for coffee and doughnuts feels so exclusive…. Of course He felt that lack of recognition too, but He’s always hoping for us to take time to invite Him into our day. How difficult it is to do that! It’s a lesson in humility for me.and I’ll be bringing it (again) to Confession with my priest and spiritual director on Tuesday.

    Thank you for sharing the inner workings of a similarly eccentric mind. (Is this a characteristic of women in recovery? It’s been 43 years…)

    If I passed you on the street, I would smile…
    Kathy

  9. Your thoughts on our Savior taken out of public life keeps me grounded that we must continue to seek him out every day in the most simple ways. Your writings are what keeps me coming back for more. You put your thoughts where the goats can get it. I do not need any more cutesy sayings or comments, just pitch it to me straight. Never fear Heather, your voice resounds to so many of us just like you.

    God Bless

  10. I was singing that song all morning before Mass. Instead, 3 songs l didn’t know. Can you imagine hearing Magnum Mysterium on Christmas, I’d fall over the pew in front. But when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on Earth? My poor Jesus.

  11. Down and dirty, filled with light’ Heather King! How refreshing you are! Wish’t you were my neighbour!

  12. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Thnk you for these splendid comments, one and all. They meant the world to me, esp as I was preparing to leave town last week and The Rodent Thing had still not been resolved! Mike, my best friend the exterminator was supposedly coming over to the house the minute I left to fumigate or do something decisize and dire to the under-the-house-burrow so I’m just not going to think about it.
    Meanwhile I drove to LA, via Palm Springs, and am bizarrely thrilled to be here. Everything is so familiar and dear and semi-chaotic and beautiful and alive…I’m staying with friends in Bronson Canyon/Hollywood, close to my old stomping grounds. Will see a bunch of people. Am deeply grateful. Have an action-packed two weeks planned so hope to check in–in the meanwhile wishing everybody, near and far, a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Heather,
    A new but old follower. You are such an inspiration.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Welcome, Michael!!

  14. Hi Heather – I’m behind in reading your postings so only just got to this one. I moved this summer and am blessed to be in a parish with a joyful priest and a music director who picks appropriate and worshipful music for the Mass celebrations. My previous parish was more like yours and it was hard. I wanted to comment on the man on the phone for an hour. At Adoration in my previous parish there was this man who did the same thing and I was so indignant. Come to find out, after getting to know him, all his spiritual reading and meditations, etc., were on his phone. God has this way of always humbling me, and I went to confession.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Ann, yes, absolutely. Someone else pointed out that the man on the phone may have been reading his Magnificat, or meditating on that Sunday’s liturgy. And the guy who was praying out loud–at least he was praying! Of course I was semi-laughing at myself and my own shortcomings–(this was right after Confession, btw!) Always, always, I am humbled and joyful to be at Mass. And I think very often of the people who don’t have access to the Mass, or who put themselves in mortal peril by attending Mass…anyway, blessed Advent to you!

    2. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Love it, Ann! Or maybe he was gazing lovingly at photos of his far-away kids…he kind of had his arm draped over the back of the pew, though, and was scrolling through in what struck me as a distracted, semi-at-best-attentive way…kind of the way I shop for clothes on ebay…but what skin is it off my back, or business of mine, WHAT the guy’s doing? It’s not my church, or not mine alone. I find it very heartening that so many people (not all of them here) came to the guy’s defense, which just reminds me to go somewhere other than a sanctuary if I’m looking for quiet.

  15. Thank you, Heather. I wish the same to you!

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