In 1925, Pope Pius XI established the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (formerly Christ the King).
Originally in October, it was moved by Pope Paul VI in 1969, to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, preceding Advent. It is thus uniquely placed in the liturgical calendar.
In this positioning, it can be perceived as both forward looking to the birth of Christ, and retrospective, in reflecting on the ways the Church and church-goers could have better witnessed to the Good News of Christ. It is this state of reflection in which we enter the season of Advent and it is a reassurance of Christ’s supremacy above all.
The Solemnity was added to the liturgical calendar as an antidote to secularism. It resonates in a contemporary world where not only Christ-centred consciousness seems to be evaporating, but where it is easy to give into despair. Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe declares regency over governments, families, individuals and nations.
In his encyclical Quas primas (On the Feast of Christ the King), Pope Pius XI says that Christ “is King of hearts, too, by reason of his ‘charity which exceedeth all knowledge’. And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father ‘power and glory and a kingdom’, since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created” (7).
What difference would this make in our public and private spheres if we truly had this at the heart of daily living? Does this solemnity merely call us to acknowledge Him as our “King, and personal Lord and Saviour”? What does this truly mean? The echoes of such a declaration should be evident in not just what is said, but in what, more importantly, is done.
Acknowledging his regency in our lives should shape our every interaction. Christ was somewhat a revolutionary. He challenged structures and systems that were oppressive, hypocritical and myopic. To the men who were about to stone the adulterous woman, he suggested the one who had never sinned cast the first stone.
He broke bread with Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector, and favoured the poor and those on the peripheries. He didn’t seek after the influential in positions of power, privilege and wealth: “He who is least among you all—he is the greatest” (Lk 9:48). In his Kingdom, such pursuits have no place.
One author describes him as such: “In addition, what made Jesus a revolutionary was His utter rejection of doing things the world’s way with eye-for-an-eye justice, punish-thy-enemy focus. He rejected religiosity based on rules and championed, instead, the idea that everyone is redeemable. He didn’t hang out in the royal palaces but with the riffraff, the ragamuffins, les misérables” (www.faithgateway.com/jesus-life-revolutionary-stuff).
Christ the King stands as antithesis to the material failings of this world where policies are shaped in the absence of an awareness of God (legalising of abortion); refugees, who are committing no crime in seeking safety, are vilified; racism is justified either on the basis of political affiliation or social/familial connections; wealth and possessions mark the value of the person; and where there is a disconnect between business practice and self-promoted Catholicism.
Christ is our King. Let us truly and completely enter into the spirit of who He is in our hearts and deeds, more so than in our words.