On November 26, the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, which occurs on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.
Roughly three-quarters of the Christian world, including Orthodox Christians, Coptic Christians, Anglicans and Lutherans follow the liturgical calendar (also called the Christian year or church year). The calendar is an annual cycle that governs the observance of “feast” days that commemorate a special part of the Christian faith.
Solemnities are the highest-ranking feast days celebrating important mysteries of the Christian faith. For example, Easter and Christmas are both solemnities. The church “new year” begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
The Feast of Christ the King emphasizes the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and His Lordship over all creation and governments.
The feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to growing threats from cultural ideologies like secularism and materialism, as well as the political ideologies of communism, nationalism, socialism and fascism.
The 1920s and 30s saw the rise of dictatorial and tyrannical governments in Europe and Asia. In 1925, dictator Benito Mussolini was Italy’s prime minister and Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler was on the rise in Germany, becoming Chancellor in 1933.
In light of these developments, Pope Pius XI, on December 11, 1925, added the feast of “the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ” to the liturgical calendar.
He authored the encyclical Quas Primas in the aftermath of World War I, to explain the new feast day.
“When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King,” Pius XI wrote, “society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.”
The year 1925 also marked the jubilee year of the sixteenth centenary of the Council of Nicaea, held in 325, which affirmed the divinity of Jesus Christ, who is “consubstantial” with God the Father. The council also constructed the Nicene Creed, which has been a standard of Christian orthodoxy ever since.
In Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI cited Christ’s consubstantiality as a reason for his Kingship,
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.
The pope also pointed to the Archangel Gabriel’s message to the Virgin Mary (found in Luke 1:33) as a biblical foundation for the feast day.
The Archangel, announcing to the Virgin that she should bear a Son, says that “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
He concluded the encyclical with an exhortation to the faithful,
If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire.
He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God. If all these truths are presented to the faithful for their consideration, they will prove a powerful incentive to perfection.
This side of eternity, all is not right with the world. We’re surrounded by war, poverty, injustice, pain, suffering, evil and death.
Despite our trials and tribulations, each instance of disorder should serve as a reminder that Christ’s Kingdom, while already here on Earth, has yet to be fully realized. His Kingdom is here “now,” but it’s also “not yet” complete. Christians are called to live within this tension.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18, ESV).
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Traditionally, the first three weeks in the season of Advent focus, not on Christ’s first coming as a baby in the manger, but on Christ’s second coming, when he will be fully revealed as the King of Glory.
It is with hopeful expectation that we await the full revelation of Christ the King when all will be set right.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV).
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As the season of Advent begins, and as we begin to say, “Merry Christmas,” we reflect on both Christ’s birth and his second coming.
Check out Focus on the Family’s broadcast Celebrating Advent as a Family. In addition, you can sign up to receive weekly devotionals that focus on the themes of Advent, and to receive activities for your kids to help them learn more about Christ’s arrival. You can sign up by clicking here.
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