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Feast of Christ the King,
Year B, November 25, 2012
Lectionary index # 161

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? They're not Scripture, nor homiletic, so they shouldn't be delivered from the ambo. They're a modest teaching. So let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.

Feast of Christ the King, Year B, November 25, 2012
Before the first reading:

During a late persecution, a Jewish author encourages his people with stories of Daniel, a brave ancestor who stood up to persecutors. Daniel shared strange visions of God's ultimate triumph.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Somewhat like the book of Daniel, a Christian writer, in a time of persecution, shares a vision of Christ triumphant.
Before the gospel acclamation:

The gospel of John gives a carefully nuanced rendering of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection as a "lifting up", that is, as a royal enthronement.

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Daniel 7:13-14 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: During a bitter persecution of the Jews in the second century B.C.E, an anonymous Jewish author penned the Book of Daniel, to bolster the faith of his compatriots. The book is set in the sixth century B.C.E., during the Captivity of the Jews in Babylon (the Exile). Historically-minded Jews would remember the Exile as one of their ancestors' darkest hours. This book's hero Daniel is a clever, faithful young exile, who, relying always on God, does well among his captors, and wins their admiration for himself and his fellow exiles.

The Theological and Literary Background: The book's audience believed God is active in history, guiding events for the long-term good of the People, even if persecutions and hardship reign in the short term. One expression of this faith is to predict mighty future acts of God, fantastic catastrophes in which the oppressors of God's people will be overthrown and judged, and the faithful will be vindicated at last. To veil their revolutionary content from the oppressors, these predictions were usually coded in symbolic language, and set in the indeterminate future. So they're known as "revelations," or, to use a word of Greek origin for the same idea, "apocalyptic" literature. The veiled language also emphasizes that only God really knows the future, and controls it. We saw some of this in last week's readings. Another device in apocalyptic writing is the dreamlike vision, such as today's passage.

Chapters 7-12 of Daniel contain many fine examples of apocalypse. Of special interest in today's passage is the title Son of Man. In the era when this was written, "son of man" is what you called any man, like we call men "sir" today. The figure in this vision, "one like a son of man," receives a kingly commission from one who is not human, the Ancient One (in older translations and hymns, "Ancient of Days"). In Daniel's scheme, of course, the son of man is to replace the oppressive rule of the persecutors with a permanent regime favorable to God's people. (The persecutors appear in the form of beasts in verses of Daniel 7 not in the lectionary selection.)

The gospels often show Jesus using the title "Son of Man" for himself. If Jesus is just using the term in its ordinary sense, we might say he's stressing his humanity, his identity with other human beings. If he's using it in the sense given in this passage of Daniel, Jesus is stressing his special relationship with the Father and his divine authority.

Proclaim this as if you are Daniel, or as if the vision is your own. You want to communicate the vision in order to bolster the hopes and dignity of your people. Their hope and dignity are not limited by their present circumstances. Their hope and dignity come from their alliance with the divinely commissioned Son of Man. So stress "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed."

Second Reading, Revelation 1:5-8 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Theological and Literary Background: The New Testament Book of Revelation has the same apocalyptic character as Daniel, although that's not very evident from today's short selection. Its readers were persecuted, and the author wants to bolster their faith. To the description of Jesus given here, apply what was said above about the Son of Man and his commission from the Ancient of Days.

"Alpha" and "Omega" are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the original language of this book. Giving Jesus the Alpha title reminds us of the first theme of John's gospel: That Jesus is the Word of God, pre-existing with the Father before all creation. (The author of Revelation calls himself John and is clearly familiar with the gospel of John the apostle and evangelist). To call Jesus the Omega is to say that he'll be in charge at the end of the world.

Proclaiming It: Even though this passage occurs in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, it sounds like a lawyer's summation, the final argument before the jury at trial's end. So you must sound very emphatic, yet dignified, when you conclude the second long sentence, "to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen."

Then pause. Be sure you know what is meant by "those who pierced him." Hint: read today's gospel, John 18:33b-17. (There's a great and very instructive irony in the pairing of that discussion of kingship with today's first and second readings.)

Pause again after "Yes. Amen." Then assume the voice of the divine Christ Jesus. The author wanted his audience to take comfort and confidence from hearing this. Say it slowly, with all the majesty you'd expect to hear in the voice of Jesus at history's end.

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Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Archived weekly column of Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J., from The Saint Louis Review, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri, USA,(Log in using 0026437 and 63137)

Lutheran pastor and college teacher Dan Nelson's notes for a study group. (This is a locally cached copy of Dan's page, created to solve a technical problem with his original.)

Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois. The Evangelist, newspaper of the diocese of Albany, New York, USA, archives the weekly scripture columns of Father Roger Karban. Click on the years to read how he treated these passages in 2000, in 2003, in 2006.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here.

The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes Saint Louis University's excellent site for Sunday liturgy
Most welcome here are Reginald Fuller's commentaries.

(Caveat lector. As of September 30, 2012 Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: September 30, 2012