Kingly Authority Comes from God


Anglophile Americans who tuned in to the coronation ceremony of Charles III would have noticed a mysterious screen veiling from public view the anointing of the new king. The inconspicuousness of the ritual bespeaks the sacredness of the moment. The King receives his authority directly from God. Handel’s masterpiece sung by the abbey choir echoed this truth by recalling the biblical roots of kingmaking: “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king, and all the people rejoiced.” More than an auspicious display of theater, however, these rituals teach us something profoundly true. All power originates in God. Neither monarchies nor democratic republics can exercise authority in this world without divine permission. Jesus’ words to Pilate ring true for all polities: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn 19:11).
God has no need of earthly rulers; yet he chooses (or at least permits) them, like King David, to rule. Within his own mystical body, which is the Church, Christ anoints all the baptized as priests, prophets, and kings – the same trifecta of offices chanted by the abbey choir. So that the invitation to salvation might reach to the ends of the earth, Christ makes mere mortals bridges to eternal life. Those ordained as priests and bishops receive a configuration to Christ the Head, so that they might sanctify, teach, and govern the People of God. In an essentially different way, however, all Christians exercise these offices when they offer spiritual sacrifices to God, preach the good news in word and deed, and “rule” their brothers and sisters in the manner of the one who came not to be served, but to serve. This nation “across the pond” may never witness a coronation ceremony; but make no mistake, the baptized Christians who make up the landscape of this country are true kings — and priests and prophets, too — ready to serve with authority that comes from God.