The election of the ancient kings of the Roman Kingdom (753BC-509BC) followed a process that in many respects is carried in the Christian elevation of the pope:
Whenever a king died, Rome entered a period of interregnum. Supreme power of the state would devolve to the Senate, which was responsible for finding a new king. The Senate would assemble and appoint one of its own members—the interrex—to serve for a period of five days with the sole purpose of nominating the next king of Rome. After the five-day period, the interrex would appoint (with the Senate’s consent) another Senator for another five-day term. This process would continue until a new king was elected. Once the interrex found a suitable nominee to the kingship, he would bring the nominee before the Senate and the Senate would review him.
Rome’s Pontifex Maximus and College of Pontiffs is an echo of the same thread of human practice that has been transformed in the College of Cardinals of Catholicism.
The core of Western legal tradition descends from the common law of England, which results in beautiful occurrences like a 2025 legal dispute being settled with reference to a 1345 common law precedent. In the same way, it’s beautiful to appreciate how the core of institutional Christianity has its roots in the human practice of the ancients. These things remind us that the way we govern and live are gifts of a long human experience, inherited across the spectrum of time with its highs of glory and lows of tragedy.
Our Christ came as the ultimate bridge builder between God and man, but even he had a particular moment at which to arrive. The human heart had to wait for millennia for an end to its estrangement with God. In the meantime, our historically distant brothers and sisters developed the ways of life, and the ways of being, and the ways of passing along a sense of the good and just life, that perhaps were preconditions for God’s reappearance.
In any event, carrying on the traditions and practices of our long dead ancestors reassures us that, at some distant future point when we ourselves are long dead, our ways of living might survive among our decendants.