Christ The King – Sunday 22nd November 2020
I wonder what you have on your bedside table? Is there a telephone; a glass of water or a pen and notepad? Perhaps also a photograph of someone special or a small gift given by a family member or dear friend? For me, I have an icon of “Jesus Christ Pantocrater”. It is based upon the mosaic which I first saw years ago when I visited the magnificent former Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul built around 537.
Many of you will be familiar with it. Some of you may also have other icons, pictures or devotional aids which are important. This one depicts Christ in his majesty. In his left hand he holds the New Testament. In his right hand he makes the sign of a blessing. The word “Pantocrator” is often interpreted as “strength, might and power” or the one I particularly like “sustainer of the world”. Not surprisingly, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Western (Roman) Church place different emphasis on this too.
For me, this icon gives an insight into the character of God. In the foreword to Rowan Williams’ book “Ponder these things”, Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, writes “ An icon introduces us to a world of mystery, yet at the same time this mystery is not far away, but is hidden within each of us, closer to us than our own heart”. Rowan Williams himself writes that “Icons show us the way; they invite us to follow a journey, to engage in a pilgrimage. They help us to cross borders, to enter into a new and transfigured world”.
One of the books which I have enjoyed reading is by Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford. It is entitled “Seeing God in Art – the Christian Faith in thirty images”. The penultimate painting is entitled “Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven” by Fra Angelico painted between 1423-24. He comments that it “conveys a wonderful sense of joy, ecstasy, music, movement and dance all focused and drawn out by the figure of Christ in the middle”. Do look at it if you can. He asks “Is life heading anywhere? Is there some great consummation ahead? Is there some climax beyond space and time?” These are hard and deep questions which we all face at different times.
The Feast of Christ the King completes the liturgical year in the Christian calendar. Next Sunday we start all over again with the beginning of Advent and so it continues afresh year by year. As someone who prefers negotiation and resolution I find this comforting and re-assuring. What is more challenging is when things remain incomplete or unresolved for whatever reason.
Looking back this past liturgical year, we all have our own stories to tell. Some will be filled with joy and thankfulness. Others will be filled with sadness, dis-appointment, bewilderment and those nagging questions which never quite go away. The effect of the coronavirus still continues to impact upon our lives and globally.
In our reading from Ephesians (1:15-23) we are offered some encouragement by the apostle Paul as we journey together in faith, in love, in hope. He prays that we might all be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him (Jesus) so that, with the eyes of our heart enlightened, we might know something of the hope to which we have been called.
May we continue to hope in Christ the King as we journey together in our life of faith.