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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

Christ the King and the Courage of the Martyrs

Through the reign of Christ the King, martyrs raise Christian prayer into heights that the limited powers of this world cannot know. The King of Kings dwells in this place forever implicated in humanity's plight, sending His Holy Spirit of power, consecrating all creation in the truth. Those who have joined His Body, the Church, are implicated in this very work. The sacred purpose of the Son of the Father will not be thwarted. That is why Revelations 11:3ff speaks about the undaunted witness of two mysterious figures who, though killed, rise up victorious against all hellfire. What is told about these witnesses is true for every martyr and serves as a standard for anyone who would witness to the love of Christ.

One becomes the subject of this heavenly reality through faith in the Lord of Lords. Faith that makes us subject to the Word made flesh frees us from this world even though we still live in it. Those who believe in the Risen Lord and who live by His love still live in this work-a-day world marked by the daily routine. They feel the tyranny of anxious circumstance and the urgent moment's absolute claim over the attention of the heart. They are not unfamiliar with the popular conventions, learned cynicism, political agendas and cultural forces that enslave their neighbors. Although in this very world, Christians are subject to it only to the degree that their faith fails them. By faith, they are subject only to the will of the Prince of Peace. Their confidence comes from Him. No longer subject to the commercial and political myths that define social relations, faith gives a higher vantage point. From this height alone is one able to see the true value that is at stake in an encounter and given the freedom to fight for it. Above the fray of the routine, for the sake of the Lamb, these witnesses continue to implicate themselves in the plight of those still subject to it by prayer and love, and here, in prayer's loving power, they fight to open up the vast horizons of truth for which longs the human spirit. Who are they that they should live and pray in this way? As did Enoch and Moses, they walk with the Lord and call on His Name through it all. As did Elijah and John the Baptist, they bravely unmask every offense against human dignity, even when cloaked in social convention and moralistic disguise. Although certain defeat and death awaits them, as it did St. Peter and St. Paul, they still dare contend against the deepest enemies of humanity until their testimony is complete. They reign with the Victorious One in the midst of every defeat, void and inadequacy. Even in utter disaster, their witness remains even if in the form of a dried up corpse. A horror to every worldly power, they may even be denied every last respect but they are unmoved. Their enemies may gloat over them, but only for a time with misguided hubris. Their works may appear to crumble into dust and blow away, yet the King has established through them what will not pass away. Like condemned criminals their cause might seem utterly lost, yet, as it is with their Crucified God, not even death can keep them down. Reigning with the Lamb that was slain, they possess a freedom that allows them, even in the midst of total failure, to witness with courage. Their weaknesses is only a window for divine power. Their seeming foolishness none other than a fountain of divine wisdom. Their mortal end, merely the beginning of new life. In serving their Captain, they have found a liberty that rises above the narrow limits of time and space, a prayer that ascends to the very heart of God in a cloud of glory.

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