I never noticed Christ the King Sunday until last year, when our daughter was baptized. I noticed it because of the joy and the sorrow that were intertwined in my heart. On the one hand, we had a beautiful celebration: the baptism of our child. On the other hand, we had just received word that Poppa Dean had six months to live.
While we were smiling and basking, we were also remembering the five short years we had with Poppa Dean. While I was enjoying the company of family and trying not to tear up too much at the gift of that one godfather, I was also noticing that Poppa Dean wasn’t there and wondering how long we had left.
Last year, in honor of Christ the King Sunday, there were gold vestments. There were white bows. There were triumphant songs from the choir.
Though we had sorrow in our hearts, we had joy in our arms. Though we braced ourselves for the inevitable, we were celebrating new life.
Christ the King Sunday is positioned on the liturgical calendar as the Sunday before Advent. As a Church, we bring out the gold and the trumpets right before we begin our preparation for the Incarnation and the Birth of our Savior in humble surroundings. And as we ponder the Christmas miracle, we can’t help but think where it will lead…to his death on Good Friday, and then, triumphant again, to his resurrection on Easter. We bring out the feast right before the fast, and it’s appropriate to do that, isn’t it? It’s a reminder of how life really is. One moment, you’re holding a small child, and a few short years later – really, 80 years isn’t long at all, in the larger scope of things – they’re holding you.
I can’t help but think, looking back from only a year later, that as Poppa Dean sits in heaven, he must be experiencing much the same bling as we did last year at Meredith’s baptism Mass on Christ the King Sunday. I can’t help but appreciate more how sorrow can lead to joy, and how joy can exist even in the midst of sorrow.
Toss a star for us, Poppa Dean, and pray for us, even as we pray for you.