It began, as it had to, with a girl.
There are two feminine states which form the foundation of civilization. The first and most obvious is motherhood. To be a mother is to create the next generation, in the most literal, biological sense—without women willing to take up the burden of motherhood (and let no one doubt that it is a burden), the race and the society will cease to exist. Therefore, every civilization that is not already in the throes of dying valorizes and promotes its mothers, rightfully exalting motherhood as the first and highest contribution that any woman makes to their nation.
Our civilization has not entirely forgotten the virtue of motherhood, but we are getting close. The praise given above would enrage many of those determined to valorize women for anything except motherhood. However, even this is better than the outright hate heaped on the other feminine virtue: virginity.
Because virginity is the reverse of the coin of motherhood. A virgin is a woman who will become a mother, but not yet—because she is waiting for the social and spiritual blessing, waiting to be integrated into the vertical, transgenerational communion which ties the past and the future of the civilization together. Men are also enjoined to be chaste, of course, but because the woman and not the man is the one who bears the next generation in their bodies, it is both symbolically weighty and evolutionarily prudent for the woman to be praised more highly for her virginity than the man is for his.
And so it is no coincidence that the worthy king begins his life in one who unifies the state of motherhood with the state of virginity, and who receives the highest praise for it. The foundation of the Kingdom is the one who is both Virgin and Mother.
This impossible union of complementary virtues will become something of a pattern.
It is no coincidence that immediately after the heavens opened and the identity of the worthy king was revealed, he was sent into the wilderness. And not just sent by anybody; he was “led by the Holy Spirit” into the desert, where he could “learn obedience through what he suffered”. The worthy king receives his inheritance from his father, but he still must become worthy through trial.
He was tempted to make bread, but he refused. “Man shall not live by bread alone”. The worthy man is not ruled by the desires of the body.
He was tempted to throw himself off of the temple, counting on his servants to save him, but he refused. The worthy man has no need to test his servants pointlessly, and he knows prudence even with those he can trust.
He was tempted with power, not by receiving it from the one who could give it out rightly, but by collaborating with the usurper. His response to that was the firmest of all: “Away from me, Satan!”
The people needed bread, and so he gave them bread. The worthy king will always make sure that his people have bread, will give himself as bread, but the kingdom cannot be founded on the distribution of food.
Immediately after he gave them bread, the people rioted to make him a king. Here was another offer of power: immediate, popular sovereignty, the glorious certainty of a crowd of five thousand clamoring to make him their king. By any democratic measure of legitimacy, this was the pinnacle of his accomplishments.
He ran away from it. The power of the mob is not the power the worthy king wants or requires. He abhors democracy, and he used the occasion of his most popular miracle to drive the crowds away.
Immediately he began to teach about hard, strange things, repulsing the crowds of fans with veiled references to theophagic rituals. “This is a hard teaching,” they said. “Who can accept it?” And many of them didn’t. They dwindled and left, the crowds receded, and the threat of legitimacy by means of popular acclaim was dispelled.
“You don’t want to leave, too?” he asked the ones closest to him.
But they stayed, and that group of twelve (and one traitor) became the foundations of everything that came after.
He suffered. Let us make no bones about it: he suffered, and his suffering was real and difficult and agonizing and undeserved.
But let us not repeat the error of the current year and assume that those who suffer at the hands of the authorities are automatically praiseworthy because of it. He does not demand our sympathy. We do not feel sorry for him. He was not helpless before a cruel authority. He was not oppressed.
He was a victor.
The great writers that followed him always describe his suffering this way. It is not the suffering of an innocent which recommends this event to our eyes, but the fact that the worthy king endured this suffering so that he could defeat the elemental forces of the world. The blood-stained wood is not the site of a horrifying injustice, but is rather a battlefield in which the tyrants, the usurpers, and the tormenters were thrown down. The worthy king must ultimately face the powers that stand between him and his kingdom, conquer the barbarians that have oppressed his people, take his seat upon the throne, rectify government, and restore the kingdom. (The last enemy to be defeated is death.)
The false gods of the present age would have us return forever to the death camp and the lynching trees as a black mirror of this event, pretending that mere negation of wickedness can be the foundation for a universal morality. But this is false: one cannot create a solid thing from the negative space around a crime, and one cannot make a kingdom merely repeating the crimes of your enemies. In the attempt to do so the wicked priests must constantly call forth new crimes and imagine new enemies, without which their fundamental emptiness is exposed. We do not remember the cross this way.
We remember it because here the rightful king, the heir to the kingdom, the Son of the Father, finally and decisively became worthy and received the Kingdom, trampling down death by death.