KINGS, SAINTS AND GUNPOWDER

 

Gunpowder

Kit Harington (Robert Catesby) in the 2017 BBC serial, Gunpowder

 

THERE IS CERTAINLY irony in the coincidental coming together of three festivals and/or customs this Sunday. Being the closest Sunday to All Saints Day (November 1), we celebrate today the unity in Christ between all saints, known and unknown, between the Church Triumphant (the saints in heaven) and the Church Militant (the material body of Christ on earth now). This Sunday also marks the beginning of the Kingdom Season, four weeks leading up to Advent which focus on the notion that Christ is King of heaven and of earth. The mystical impulse of Cosmic Christ feeds into/from this too. But today is also November 5th, celebrated/remembered by much of the population of the British countries as Guy Fawkes Day, when effigies of an early 17th Century rebel are burned on bonfires, ostensibly in celebration of the triumph of State in foiling the Gunpowder Plot which came so close to literally blowing it up. This moment in European history was deeply fuelled by the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, as the Reformation was gaining momentum across the continent and the persecutions it entailed. In Britain, the contemporary Protestant regime was restricting the freedom of Catholics to celebrate the Mass, torturing, outlawing and executing priests and lay-leaders, while in Spain, the Catholic Inquisition was in full flow, treating Protestants similarly. This was the time of King James I in England and when Guy Fawkes was brought before him (the execution was Jan 31st 1606) the King James Bible (or Authorized Version) was actually being written.
The King James Bible is of course a beautifully written and poetically masterful translation but it is notable also for the slanting of its compositional flow in the direction of the sanctity and blessedness of monarchy and a perception of hierarchy both on earth and in heaven. The State, therefore is seen as righteous and any rebellion un-Godly. There are strands of tradition preserved in the ancient Hebrew and Syriac texts which support “kingly” interpretations but there are also many other, more rebellious strands mixed in there which certainly do not.
When we speak of Christ the King and All Saints we need to be conscious about how all this affects us. How does often unconsciously inherited, Western education programming sit with our ability to meet Christ as Christ is, in the temple of our being – the Christ who looked at the Temple of state religion and said,
‘You see all these (buildings), do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’? (Matthew 24.2)

~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on November 4, 2017.

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