By Denise Trull
We come at last to the great and dizzying heights of the Church year, a day on which we can almost reach out and touch the Kingdom of Heaven in the mists of swirling, gorgeous liturgy. All the images it evokes, its unbridled splendor and triumphant song, the golden vestments, the incense, the glad and glorious cry of the whole Church as one: her triumphant, her suffering, her militant: CHRISTUS VINCIT, CHRISTUS REGNAT, CHRISTUS IMPERAT.
I have been thinking more on kings lately. It's somewhat odd for an American to ponder the idea of kings. I have no experience of them in real life. I often wonder what to envision when I think of Christ as King. For us here on earth, Christ must surely be a soldier king, as we are still fighting our great battle with the forces of evil: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus would be the leader of this army -- the one we follow confidently into the fray. What would that look like, I wonder?
I have a king in mind. It is always Theoden whom I envision on this day. Theoden, Tolkien's King of Rohan is beleaguered, under a great and heavy spell of evil, his kingdom divided by a scheming Wormtongue. His son dead -- and he so longing to properly mourn him but having no time, his nephew fighting on all fronts of his kingdom, his niece pleading for his wise leadership and willing with all her heart to fight for his honor. Theoden is shrouded in resentment and anger that Gondor has seemed to abandon their long held alliance. Theoden, when we meet him, is, in a word, discouraged by the weight of despair. Gandalf lifts this evil spell of helplessness, and Theoden suddenly sees what he must do. The path is desperate, but clear. There is no real hope of winning against the great evil pressing in upon his people and yet, Theoden steps up to fight anyway and to answer the call. For Theoden is a king, the mighty leader of a proud and fighting people, whom he has every confidence will follow him into battle.This is the very stuff of kings, this Theoden. Once he makes his decision, he never falls back -- even though it looks bleak and he is certain that defeat will be his. He determines to die as a king. Noble. Brave. Fighting evil until the last drop of his goodness. Being a leader to his people and helping them to find their own goodness. Theoden is magnificent.
I love him most of all for these three simple words. REFORM THE LINE! When he is fighting off the retreating Orcs on the battlefield and he begins to think perhaps victory might actually and miraculously be within his grasp -- he hears a loud horn blast behind him and turns to see a whole other army with elephants bearing down upon him. His face screams fear, despair, exhaustion, but his voice rings out with force: "REFORM THE LINE!" We go down fighting!
If there was ever a cry for the spiritual life, that's the one for me. I can muddle through one battle, and think perhaps I have won, but when faced with a new wave of struggles I tend to want to run when I need to reform the line and go at it again. I am always surprised by that little phrase, 'once again.’ I need one like Theoden at those moments; I need his cry in my heart. Oh, don’t we all.
When the sink is full of dishes once again, when the pile of dirty laundry is once again high, when the computer crashes at work and you lose it all, when you are once again fighting for the unborn and the hurdles just keep getting thrown up to bar the way again, when a friend betrays you "for Wales" perhaps, or when you need to return love and forgiveness to someone who has selfishly used you once again, when cancer comes back, when the baby is crying in the middle of the night again and you are just so tired, when chronic illness makes you look into the mouth of discouragement daily, when old age creeps in to sap your energies of mind and body, when error and false teachings seem to win the day, when Christ seems so far from the world you live in and you are tired of trying to find Him. Then. Then it is good to remember King Theoden and to hear his voice in your soul: REFORM THE LINE!
To me that is Christ's battle cry to us. It was His battle cry when he was walking to Calvary, when he was nailed to a tree, when he argued with Pharisees who would put him to death out of envy, when he was lifted up and gazed down upon all those baffled, discouraged faces watching his supposed defeat. It's not over!
He says it to every struggling saint in the darkest hours and in all the discouraged places of their questioning souls. He says it to each and every one of us: we, the spiritual hobbits who are allowed, by some miracle, to fight in his army. REFORM THE LINE. We fight til the end! Because He is our King and we are his people -- His Church Militant who ever follow Him into battle. Let our voices proclaim it:
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat! Alleluia!