Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OId Year - New Year: King Jesus and the Baby Jesus

This week Catholics around the world participate in the transition from Church Year 2009 to 2010, as we move from late autumn Ordinary Time into Advent. Having just celebrated the feast of Christ the King, the One who will come again, we ready ourselves to wait for his coming as a baby at Christmas, and acknowledge not only Christ as Baby, but as King - and the relationship between those two images.

Unlike the traditional New Years image of the creaky old man representing the old year and the newborn baby the new, our old year Jesus is the enthroned, powerful ruler to whom is due all glory, honor and dominion. Because Christ dwells in eternity, he is forever at the peak of his mature strength, not vitiated by age.

As a matter of fact, Christ the Baby is not the mute, powerless infant for more than a passing moment - the short duration of the Christmas Season, because the Baby, too, lives in eternity - the already-not-yet of time.  We should not make the mistake of seeing only his helplessness and tinyness. He is only apparently powerless.  And yet kings will pay him homage and a king will fear him. In Catholic tradition we have an image of this Jesus. It is perhaps interesting that modern Catholicism has "lost" the image of the Infant of Prague - that tiny powerful Baby-King who unites the already and the not yet... probably because he became a statue too many people associate with the hallways of a Catholic School of the 1950's and 60's - strictly an image for children.

Watch the upcoming readings of Advent for hints about which avatar of Jesus is the operative image. Most of the time, it will be the King of glory. Only as we approach the celebration of his birth as human being, will he appear as the humble, swaddled Baby.  And we should never underestimate that Baby's power to love us into change and growth.

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