Sunday 23 November 2008

The Feast of Christ the King

My church is happily blessed with an altar dedicated to, and featuring an impressive image of, Christ the King, whose feast we keep today. The feast of Our Lord under this title was formally instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925; a period that was something of a high watermark for Anglo-Catholicism, especially in its papalist manifestation. As a result, many devotions popularised in Rome at this time found their way into the shrines and chapels of Anglican churches, which is probably why we have a statue of the Little Flower, S. Therese de Lisieux in the gardens of the Walsingham shrine. In 1925, the rector of S. Magnus the Martyr, Fr. Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton was in the middle of renovating the church, and commissioned Martin Travers to do the work. The mark of Travers, and indeed Fr. Fynes-Clinton, is indelibly imprinted on the interior of the church. One of the statues created by Travers during the 1920s renovation is the reredos of the Christ the King chapel, which is based on the famous Ghent altarpiece. It shows Christ on his throne of glory, vested as a priest and wearing a three-tiered Papal tiara, which some people take to be an allusion to the Holy Trinity. I often relish the fact that before this image stands the original "holy table" of Wren's church, a relic from the dark days when Protestantism held sway at S. Magnus.

Rolling out holy chapatis

We kept today's feast with a Solemn High Mass, celebrated by Fr. Philip, deaconed by Fr. Aidan Harker and subdeaconed by your scribe. Christ the King is also by custom the date of our annual "curry lunch", which raises money for charity. It is also marks exactly one year from my first visit to S. Magnus when I had recently moved to London, knew hardly anyone and slept on a futon in the house of a family friend. I felt stupid for having moved to London with about £20 in the bank, depressed because my search for a job had come to nothing and anxious that I wouldn't even be able to afford Christmas presents for my mum! With those memories in mind, I couldn't help but get misty-eyed at today's Gospel :

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in...

Exactly a year ago, I walked out of S. Magnus the Martyr church fed to bursting with delicious food and drink, and completely warmed through by the generosity, kindness and good company of the group of people I had never known before then. I went back the next week, and the next and am still loathe to miss a single Sunday away from the church. I can never fully convey to people who ask me about S. Magnus the value of being part of a living, worshipping community, in which the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed and lived; I can only invite them to experience it for themselves.

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