The Living Picture

Source: District of Great Britain

A story for orphans on Corpus Christi.

The Young King

Once upon a time there was a young king. No-one knew he was a king because his ancestors had been defeated in battle and the kingdom had passed into other hands. Nevertheless, the young man was still rightfully a king, and he had a natural authority and wisdom, and cared for those around him as if they were his subjects.

When walking down a narrow side street of the capital of the kingdom, in the poor part of the city, the king caught sight of a child in tears. The child had no parents and was left to wander the streets to find food and shelter. The king stopped, smiled and gave the child the bag of fruits and delicacies he had just bought from the nearby market. But as quickly as he came, the king disappeared again, leaving the child astonished and happy and wondering who the mysterious man was that had been so kind.

A few months later, the same thing happened again – just when the child had given up hope, the king appeared from nowhere and gave the child a bag contianing clothes, some soap and plenty of food. This time though, the king stopped to speak. The first thing he said was, "Do not be afraid."

As the months passed, the meetings became more frequent – first once a fortnight, then once a week and then almost every day. The king brought everything that was good for the child – not only material things, but friendship and paternal love. The life of the child was transformed by these meetings; every day, every idle moment, the child used to think with happiness of the young king…

The Last Battle

That was until their last meeting. The king appeared one day as mysteriously as usual, but for the first time he had no smile. “My child,” he said, “this is the last time you and I will meet like this. You know that war is coming, the enemy has been growing stronger and stronger against the great kingdom and I must fight a terrible battle. I am going away for a little while, but after a little while, you will see me again, but not as before.”

Talk of the war spread all around the city and the child listened eagerly for any news about the young man who was king. The enemy appeared to be winning the war; there was to be one last battle. The city was strangely empty and the clouds gathered and made the sky so dark that it seemed night had fallen in the middle of the day.

“All is lost!” shouted a man running wildly down the empty main road. “All is lost! Our last hope, the unknown king, is dead. We did not know that he was the king until the Black Prince of Darkness singled him out from the crowd to fight and called him Lord. The unknown king fought so bravely, but the Black Prince eventually pierced his heart with a lance. All is lost!”

The child walked up and down the empty streets full of sadness. Sounds of woe and anguish could be heard from behind the closed doors of the houses. Rain fell in torrents, the night also fell, and so did the tears - they rolled down the cheeks of the hungry homeless child.

The next day, after the day of darkness, all was quiet. Nobody moved in the streets; they were waiting for the enemy soldiers to arrive, but nothing happened. The child went to sleep again, still sad.

The Magic Picture

The young king never came back and life returned to its former pattern, that was, until about three months later. While thinking about the young king, a well-dressed man walked towards the child in the street. He stopped, looked at the child, reached into his pocket and held out a letter. “Open it,” he said, and then he was gone.

The child opened the letter with excitement - as we all do when we receive letters. Inside was a beautiful picture of the young king with a note which read, “Speak to me, and I will be with you again.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the child without thinking, “will you not come back to me?” And at the same instant the picture changed, it came alive! The young king was in battle again with the Black Prince, but not dirty and covered with sweat and blood, but in bright shining armour surrounded by thousands of noble knights all in white. He defeated the Black Prince of Darkness with majestic ease - pinning him to the floor, with his sword at the Black Prince’s throat.

Wondering and overjoyed, the child knelt and adored the king together with the noble knights. “Oh King, if only this thing that I have seen was true. Come to me again, for I miss you.”

The King in the picture, turned towards the child and stepped forward, out of the picture. His battle armour changed to flowing white and gold robes; his helmet became a jewelled crown. “My child,” he said, “I have come back to you and I will not leave you again. I fought the battle for you and when the enemy, the Prince of Darkness, struck me and pierced me through, I thought of you. I will not leave you again. I will be with you always – even unto the consummation of the world.”

And saying this, the King, now so beautiful, wrapped the homeless, fatherless child in his cloak in a tender embrace.

The Meaning of the Story

My dear brethren, I probably do not need to tell you the meaning of the story.

  • The child is all of mankind: poor and orphaned without God’s grace, homeless outside of heaven.
  • The King is Jesus Christ: He was an unknown King while on earth; He died in the greatest battle against Satan and won the war; He returned, as He had promised, but in a different way.
  • The picture which comes to life is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: it is a memorial of the death of Jesus on the Cross; it is a living re-presentation of the same sacrifice, the same battle, in an unbloody manner; it brings Jesus to us, really present, to wrap us in His tender embrace through Holy Communion.

My dear boys and girls, when you watch the priest and the host, I want you to imagine the picture of Jesus dying on the Cross, covered in sweat and blood and in pain, and then again bright and beautiful after having won the great victory over Satan. I want you to imagine Jesus stepping down from the altar in His royal garments and wrapping you in His royal cloak when you receive Him in Holy Communion. 

And I want you to adore Him and thank Him.

We are the child in the story – and we will always be in His embrace as long as we remain in grace, having God as our Father, and having our home in heaven where our Mother Mary is waiting for us.