On the Feast of the Ascension, Thoughts on the Kingship of Christ

The Ascension of Christ, 1496-98, Oil on panel, 342 x 263 cm. Musée Municipal des Beaux-Arts, Lyon

As we celebrate Christ’s Ascension today, we cannot but think of the mission of the Church and establishing the Reign of Christ the King. Here is an excerpt from The Kingship of Christ According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Rev. Denis Fahey.

. . .When an organism perishes and corrupts, it is because it had ceased to be under the action of the causes which had given it its form and constitution. To make it healthy and flourishing again it is necessary to restore it to the vivifying action of those same causes. So society, in its foolhardy effort to escape from God, has rejected the divine order and revelation; and it is thus withdrawn from the salutary efficacy of Christianity, which is manifestly the most solid guarantee of order, the strongest bond of fraternity, and the inexhaustible source of all public and private virtue. This sacrilegious divorce has resulted in bringing about that trouble which now disturbs the world. Hence it is the pale of the Church which this lost society must re-enter, if it wishes to recover its well-being, its repose, and its salvation.

“Just as Christianity cannot penetrate into the soul without making it better, so it cannot enter in public life without establishing order. . . .If it has transformed pagan society. . .so, after the terrible shocks which unbelief has given to the world in our days, it will be able to put that world again on the true road, and bring back to order the States and people of modern times. But the return of Christianity will not be efficacious and complete if it does not restore the world to a sincere love of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In the Catholic Church Christianity is incarnate. It identifies itself with that perfect, spiritual, and, in its own order, sovereign society, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, and which has for its visible head the Roman Pontiff, successor of the Prince of the Apostles. It is the continuation of the mission of the Savior, the daughter and heiress of His Redemption.”

Honoring a Bishop

This is an excerpt from American Catholic Etiquette by Kay Toy Fenner, first published by The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, in 1961.

A bishop is a priest who has received the fullness of holy orders, that is, the power to administer confirmation and holy orders as well as all the other sacraments. Most bishops also have other administrative duties above those of a priest. Because of this, special distinction is shown a bishop by all other members of the Church.

A Catholic formally greets a bishop by kissing the ring which is one of his marks of office. When one is greeting a bishop within the diocese of which he is the head, one kneels to kiss his ring.  Properly one should kneel upon the left knee (kneeling on the right knee as a mark of respect is reserved for the Blessed Sacrament); but many people find kneeling on the left knee awkward. If one kneels on the right knee, one need not be concerned; it is a minor lapse of no importance.

It is never wrong, either from a religious or social point of view, to greet a bishop by kissing his ring. It is done at weddings, funerals, ordinations, any entertaining at which the bishop is the host, or meetings of Catholic organizations.

The gesture is sometimes omitted at mixed gatherings, such as the dedication of a public building lest it be misunderstood by non-Catholics present; but it is proper to kiss the episcopal ring under these circumstances if one wishes.

If one has frequent dealing with a bishop because of the nature of one’s work–when one meets him perhaps several times in a day–the usual practice is to kiss the ring at the first daily meeting and to omit the gesture for the remainder of the day.

No layman, religious, or cleric below the rank of bishop sits in the presence of a bishop until he requests one to do so. If seated, one rises when a bishop approaches to address one and remains standing until he invites one to be seated.

At a social gathering, the hostess or chairman says to the bishop, before any others present, “Please be seated, Your Excellency” and indicates a seat on her (his) right. If the bishop arrives after the other guests, all rise when he enters and remain standing until he is seated.

All these marks of respect (except kneeling and kissing the ring) should also be shown all clerics and religious by the laity.

Master of Saint Augustine (Netherlandish, ca. 1490). Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine of Hippo (detail), ca. 1490. Oil, gold, and silver on wood. Made in Bruges, Flanders, South Netherlands. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1961 (61.199) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Relationship Between the Day of Rest and Festivity

bruegel_1566_wedding-dance-in-open-air“The antithesis between holiday and workday, or more precisely, the concept of the day of rest, tells us something further about the essence of festivity.  The day of rest is not just a neutral interval inserted as a link in the chain of the workaday life.  It entails a loss of utilitarian profit.  In voluntarily keeping the holiday, men renounce the yield of a day’s labor.  This renunciation has from time immemorial been regarded as an essential element of festivity.  A definite span of usable time is made, as the ancient Romans understood it, “the exclusive property of the gods.”  As the animal for sacrifice was taken from the herd, so a piece of available time was expressly withdrawn from utility.  The day of rest, then, meant not only that no work was done, but also that an offering was being made of the yield of labor.  It is not merely that the time is not gainfully used;  the offering is in the nature of a sacrifice, and therefore the diametric opposite of utility.

“It scarcely need be said that in a world governed by the concept of utility, there can be no time set aside on principle, any more than there can be land set aside on principle.  Anyone who called for it would be accused of “sabotaging work.”  For that very reason the totalitarian laboring society must of necessity be an altogether unfestive society, just as it is marked by scarcity and impoverishment even when there is the greatest abundance of material goods.  Similarly, the man who is limited to absolutely utilitarian activity, to the artes serviles, and who is thus “proletarianized” in that sense, has rightly been called “unfestive.”  On the other hand, voluntary renunciation of the yield of a working day cuts through the principle of calculating utility, and the principle of poverty also.  Even in conditions of extreme material scarcity, the withholding from work, in the midst of a life normally governed by work, creates an area of free surplus.” ~ Josef Pieper, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity