By Vir Christi
The approach of Thanksgiving is cause for great excitement among families in the United States, and for good reason. Lots of fun traditions, plenty of yummy food, and the good company of friends and family. It also means for the Advent and Christmas season enthusiasts—myself being no exception—that the time is coming to go full-bore on Advent hymns and Christmas carols. But in the middle of the Thanksgiving and Christmas jubilation is a solemnity we need now more than ever. That solemnity is Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before Advent begins.
Yes, Jesus is King: So Why the Feast Day?
As Catholics, in our liturgical celebrations we frequently hear mentions of Christ’s kingship. Our collective prayers at Mass often end with invocations such as “We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.” It might seem redundant to have a whole solemnity identifying Jesus as King, when we have so many other feast days celebrating Jesus in other ways. So why have it?
Pope Pius XI created the solemnity of Christ the King in 1925. During that period in world history, backlash against the resolution of World War I had led to the rise of totalitarianism and atheism throughout the world. Italy and the former Russian Empire—now the Soviet Union—had been two bastions of religious fervor, but were now turning against the faiths that had been their backbone. The pope’s encyclical Quas Primas, in which he created the solemnity, served as a reminder that no matter which governments held power, Jesus was still the eternal King.
The Church in her wisdom placed this solemnity at the very end of the liturgical year on the new calendar. From All Hallow’s Eve until the beginning of Advent, the Church dedicates her attention to the end times. Readings at Mass focus on the Second Coming, the Final Judgment, and ensuring one’s soul is properly disposed for eternity. The solemnity of Christ the King is the capstone of what the eve of All Saint’s Day begins. It loudly proclaims why we have the intentional focus on the end times: so that we can joyfully greet Our King when He returns in glory. It points to the fulfillment of the deepest desires and longings of His faithful. It shouts a message of joy that no earthly power can silence.
That message should ring in our hearts: No matter who is in charge, Jesus is still King.
What Does This Day Mean for Us?
Social media, the twenty-four-hour news cycle, and other technological phenomenons have exploded in the United States to give us an unprecedented level of access to information. While this has been beneficial in many ways, it also leaves us increasingly vulnerable to fear. There are many powerful men and women in society who recognize what a potent tool fear can be for maintaining their influence, if leveraged correctly, and they do so with ruthless repetition. People are being constantly inundated with new streams of information before they barely have time to process what they have just received. They’re more overwhelmed and anxious than before, and they have no idea where to turn. Political parties seek to exploit that fear. Every election year, we hear versions of “If you don’t elect me, think of what terrifying things the other candidate will do if he wins!”
The nasty result of this style of campaigning can be a triumph for Satan. Those who advocate for the positions of the winning political party can be manipulated into being vindictive winners. Those advocating for the losing party can be tricked into being destructive losers. The bottom line is that it’s intended to be a distraction. Satan uses his unwitting pawns this way because he wants you to forget one basic, unassailable, irrefutable truth: no matter who is president, Jesus is still King.
How Can I Mark the Day?
Justice is an important virtue for a ruler to possess, and Christ is the Just Judge. One good way to mark the day is to reflect on all of the injustices that exist in the world. Then, stir up joy and hope in your heart by meditating on the love of God and remembering that Jesus will come to make all things new. The end result of Christ’s return has already been determined: it will be a triumphant one! The only question is when it will occur.
Another good way to sanctify the day is to delve into the Church’s rich musical tradition. There are a considerable number of chants and other hymns that have been created to celebrate the great truth of Christ’s kingship. Some of these include Gloria Laus, O Worship the King, Dignus est Agnus, and Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. A particular favorite of mine is Christus Vincit. All of them reflect the joy and exultation that the human heart should feel at the security of Christ’s throne. Simply dwelling in that joy throughout the day is an excellent way to mark the occasion.
A final way one might wish to consider spending the day is to make it a special family occasion. We who live in the world have a multitude of obligations placed on us, even on Sundays. This can frequently make it difficult for families to spend time together. Christ the King demonstrates the unity of the Church in Christ the Head, her King. The family is the domestic church, the smallest unit of the Body of Christ. Striving to set this solemnity aside in a profound way for spending time together with one’s family is an amazing act of devotion.
May your celebration of Christ the King be a joyous transition into the season of Advent.
Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Christ conquers! Christ reigns! Christ commands!
Vir’s heart has been on fire for the Church from day one, and he dreams of the day when Constantinople will be a city again. He has a competitive drive satiated by sports and board games, but is also just as happy to sit down and read a good book for hours on end.