Sunday 25 November saw celebrations in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King for the titular Feast of the Cathedral.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly celebrated the 11.00 am Solemn Mass at which the Cathedral Choir sang the Introit ‘Dignus est Agnus’ and the Messe Solennelle by Widor. The motets ‘Zadok the priest’ by Handel and ‘Sedebit Dominus Rex’ by MacMillan wiere sung. The hymns for the Mass were ‘Crown him with many crowns’ and the hymn written specially for the Cathedral by Redemptorist Priest, Father Patrick Brennan, and which was sung at the laying of the original foundation stone of the Cathedral in 1933, ‘Hail, Redeemer, King Divine’.
In his homily the Archbishop reflected on the origins of the Feast.
Introduction to Mass and Homily preached by the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, at Solemn Mass on the Feast of Christ the King. 11.00 am on Sunday 25 November 2012 in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool.
Introduction to Mass:
It was August 1939. My Irish grandfather, Patrick Kelly, was on his way home from Harrogate where he took the waters each year, to Donegal. He called in Morecambe to see his youngest grandchild: this Patrick Kelly. His comment: ‘Well young man, I think I’d rather be leaving the world than joining it just now’. Horrors were beginning to cast shadows over Europe and the Far East. At that same time as the ruthlessness of national socialisms, racist, arrogant, violent were emerging Pope Pius XI called on us to celebrate as King Jesus, Jewish son of Jewish Mary, mocked by a King Herod, condemned by Pilate, scourged, crowned, nailed, pierced by brutal soldiers.
We need the challenge, the counter-cultural feast of a son of man, of a first born from dead, a witness to the truth, now as much as in the late 1930s.
We were crossing a vast windswept plain in Iran. We turned off down a dusty track and came to an utterly plain, unadorned stone building: square: solid: no ostentatious decoration. The tomb of Cyrus: Cyrus who would send the Jews home from exile: Cyrus whom Isaiah saw as a servant, a foreshadowing of God’s perfect servant who somehow by selflessness and self-sacrifice would heal and liberate and renew and bring light.
I saw tombs of other kings of those lands we now name Iraq and Iran: all celebrity: magnificence: status. The lowly, rugged tomb was nearest the truth.
For the one who would rule with justice, glory in selflessness, be king by love would be the one portrayed in the first of Sean Rice’s Stations of the Cross: look at any you choose and recall: Pontius Pilate: agent of Rome’s massive Empire: judging a Nazarene carpenter, haggard from a sweat of blood in an olive garden: bruised from blow after blow from cynical, hyped up, thugs. But who by a simple declaration stands, without any rival as Pilate’s judge and judge of us all.
‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
Pilate, every ruler, every Archbishop, every one is judged: do you belong to the truth? Or do you surrender to lies of tongue and pen: to the comfortable instead of the challenge: to bias instead of the discipline of rigorous application: to prejudice instead of that selflessness which integrity of attitude, priority demands.
With our sister Cathedral of the Most Holy Redeemer, Liverpool’s sky line dares to proclaim: the crucified, pierced one is the Alpha and the Omega.
Iran: Iraq: Afghanistan: the Holy Land which enfolds today’s Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, needs him whose tomb in Jerusalem is empty. But only empty because it once was occupied by the Son of God, who sought not a kingdom of this world, so had none to fight for him. His self-sacrifice would establish a Kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
As in 1939 we need him, fidelity to him: he is the only antidote to the sadness of one Patrick Kelly to another Patrick Kelly: ‘Well young man, I think I’d rather be leaving the world than joining it just now’.