Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

(Missale Romanum 1970) 

In the new calendar, the Feast of Christ the King emphasizes especially Our Lord’s cosmic rule as “King of All,” or Pantokrator in Greek (a popular iconographic theme in the domes of Byzantine Churches).  As we end one liturgical year and move quickly into the next with the season of Advent, we are conscious today that Christ’s coming at Christmas is not the only coming of His coming we anticipate.  We expect His imminent coming as Judge of the living and the dead, as we profess in the Creed.

In the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours this particular week, the liturgical prescriptions recommend the use of the traditional Sequence hymn Dies Irae, originally found in the Requiem Mass.  This hymn conveys great truths that we do well to consider this month of November, since it movingly describes the Day of Judgment.  Here follow the fifth and eighth verses with my commentary.  The following English translation is taken from the Parish Book of Chant.

The written book shall be brought forth, containing all for which the world must be judged.

We do well to remember Our Lord’s words, as St. Gregory the Great reminds us in one of his homilies: “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter” (Mt. 12:36, RSV).  How much build-up of venial sin in this area there often is from day to day!  Let us take our careless words and actions to the Lord in repentance.  Let us take responsibility for the ways we ourselves may cause “death by a thousand cuts” to other people around us through thoughtless and hurtful speech and behavior.

Since God is omnipotent and all-benevolent, He will not allow the distorting effects of our forgiven sins to have any indefinite hold on us whatsoever - and this is a good and most wholesome thing!  God wants us to be purified by the warmth of His grace of all things that are contrary to His gift of charity (love for Him and neighbor), so that we can shine in splendor like Our Lady. Before the majesty of Christ the King, our deepened contrition and more fervent acts of penance open us up to God’s healing work, as we hear expressed in the following verse.

O King of awful majesty, who of Thy free gift savest them that are to be saved, save me, O Fount of Mercy.

In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, the priest exhorts the people in one of the litanies to pray for the following: “...and for a good defense before the awesome judgement seat of Christ, let us ask of the the Lord.” This petition agrees with what we find in the Dies Irae. In what does such a “good defense” consist?  Faith, love, and repentance, as expressed above: “save me, O Fount of Mercy.

The notable Baptist preacher Charles Stanley, in one of his recorded sermons, speaks convincingly about God’s presence in the following way (my rough recall of his words): “If God were to step into the room right now, we would be on our faces on the floor so fast, we wouldn’t know what happened.”  This is indeed true. In the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus hides the overwhelming power of His divinity, just as He did throughout His time on earth (except for the Transfiguration).  When we see the face of Christ Pantokrator, however, we will have only one thing to utter before such blindingly awesome holiness, truth, beauty, and goodness: “save me!”  At the same time, however, the Pantokrator is also the Philanthropos, the “Lover of Mankind,” who loves us more than we can ever comprehend.  Hence we say, in faith and love, “O Fount of Mercy!



(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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