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Rev. Ben Johnson at Natl Catholic Register: Praying to the true ‘King of Israel’

The week after Donald Trump tweeted a message proclaiming himself the “second coming of God,” I decided to say a prayer to the “King of Israel” (although quietly, since my bishop encouraged me to pray so softly that no parishioner would hear me). I am assured that literally thousands of priests in this country have joined me in standing before our altars and whispering an identical prayer, using the same moniker.

This is not a confession of idolatry nor an insider’s expose of a vast Trumpian conspiracy to Make Mass Great Again. As I write at the National Catholic Register:

The controversy resonated with me deeply, because technically, I pray to the “King of Israel” every Sunday. The phrase is an ancient part of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the typical Sunday service of every Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite (Byzantine) Catholic Church. And naturally, the title has nothing to do with any earthly ruler.

The full prayer, which is posted at the Register, states that the Lord God is “borne on the throne of the cherubim. Thou art Lord of the seraphim and King of Israel.” It is always prayed silently, as it is the priest's private prayer of confession. I analyze the prayer and three theological truths it contains at the Register.

I left aside what it says about the State, which may be best summarized in the words of Ludwig von Mises. He warned that economic collectivists “proclaimed the socialist program as a doctrine of salvation.”He denounced “statolatry” in Human Action:

[The State’s] function is indispensable and beneficial, but it is an ancillary function only. There is no reason to idolize the police power and ascribe to it omnipotence and omniscience. There are things which it can certainly not accomplish. It cannot conjure away the scarcity of the factors of production, it cannot make people more prosperous, it cannot raise the productivity of labor. All it can achieve is to prevent gangsters from frustrating the efforts of those people who are intent upon promoting material well-being.

No earthly ruler or collection of experts can correctly set prices. To assume the State can comprehensively plan the production, distribution, and consumption of resources attributes omniscient qualities to fallible human beings. Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism dethroned God, empowered mystical forces of “history,” and ascribed to the State omnipotent powers to remake the human soul. Swearing allegiance to any Higher Power became not merely a statement of faith but an act of defiance to tyranny.

I reiterate what I wrote in the Register: “Truly, the best thing that could come out of this controversy is that it may bring people closer to God, the true King of Israel.”

You can read the prayer, which is usually heard only by an ordained priest’s ears, here.

(Photo credit: Petar Milošević. This photo has been cropped and modified. CC BY-SA 4.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.