O Rex Gentium
'O King of the gentiles, whom all the peoples so desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one: come, and save men whom you made from clay.'
"King whom all the people desire! It was not only patriarchs and prophets who were waiting in the land of shades. It was not only to prophets and patriarchs, to the men of Israel, that the Light went when it went down into hell... that hell was the place of all the dead, where all men are in the same condition. It was the place where the most significant division in the world - between Israel, the one people that was chosen, and the very many peoples who were not - was no longer of any significance... He was and is desired not only by his first love, the chosen people, but by the peoples who were not elected but who, for all that, are not outside his love.
We are not praying for a fuhrer, but for the king who makes his people a nation of kings. If we pray him to come, then we must be ready to share his kingship. Those who, according to the Apocalypse of St John, will sit with him on his throne are those who have conquered as he has conquered; they are those whom he has freed from their sins by his blood, and made a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. Christ is King, surely, but he is not a king whose royalty is diminished by sharing it with other people. Again and again, we tend to think that if God shares things with us, he will be lessened by it, but that is not so. Christ is none the less a priest but all the more a priest in that he makes all of us priests too. God is none the less holy but the more holy in that he makes us really holy as well. God is all the more God, all the more other, in that he makes us sharers in his very nature as God, as Peter in his second epistle and the Church Fathers insist. So when we pray for him to come as King... we are praying for a king who will restore us to our rightful position as kings in the world he has made, for, as the Roman Liturgy puts it, we are 'set over the whole world to serve him, our Creator, and to rule over all creatures'.
The King of the gentiles makes us kings in turn; we whom he formed 'de limo', out of the dust and slime of the earth... We are reminded of that every year at the start of that other purple season of Lent, when the Church says to us on Ash Wednesday; 'Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you will return.' Remember the reality of the situation... Not only in Lent but throughout the entire year and perhaps especially today as we repeat this antiphon, we stand, each one of us, under the sign of the ashes, the dust of the earth. That is the sign of our solidarity in human nature and fallen nature. It is also the sign of our solidarity in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the risen Lord, the King who is to come and whom the gentiles so desire.
He, we say, is the Cornerstone that makes both peoples one, forging a unity out of Jew and gentile. According to Paul, this is the heart of the mystery that was hidden from before all ages but has now been revealed. The mystery of the Church as the sign and instrument of unity between men. The mystery of the gospel that is spoken to men who do not speak each other's languages so that they may with one heart and one mouth confess the faith of Christ. The whole object of the exercise of Christ's coming is that he should gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. Therefore, we must always have something of his concern for unity, in mankind and, most particularly, in the Church."
- Geoffrey Preston, OP, 'Hallowing the Time'
The image above is 'The Adoration of the Trinity' by Albrecht Durer (1511)