Why do we have a Feast of Christ the King?
Pope Pius XI decided to institute the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for one main reason: because the world is screwed up. “ The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences.”
Like what? “the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities
and rivalries between nations…that insatiable greed which is so often hidden
under a pretence of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many
private quarrels…no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect
their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined.”
Sound familiar? Funny how, 100 years later, we are suffering even worse
from the same problems. Sometimes Popes really know what they are talking
Which is why perhaps we should have a second serious look at the solution Pius XI provides: Christ, truly, as King.
Is it an appropriate title?
Aren’t we imposing a medieval title where a post-modern democratic one might be more appropriate? The thing is of course that it’s not a medieval title: since their first days Christians have always called Christ King. Even then, it wasn’t our idea: Jesus himself called himself King, and acted like one. Remember the donkey thing on Palm Sunday?
Remember his answer to Pilate? “You say that I am a king. For this I was born,
and for this I have come into the world.” It was what he was insulted and spat
for. It was the reason he wore a crown of thorns. It is the reason that walking
into almost any Catholic church into the world one is confronted with a crucifix
titled with a whopping big sign saying “INRI” – “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the
So how is Jesus king?
Pope Pius reminds us that Jesus is king in a number of ways:
- King because he is perfection itself.
- King because he reigns in the hearts of men because he is perfectly
intelligent, he knows everything, and he is Truth itself.
- King in the wills of men, because in him “the human will was perfectly and
entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God”
- King of hearts, because his love exceeds all other love or knowledge.
But the Pope is at pains to point out that he is also king as a man, having
received from the Father “supreme and absolute dominion over all things
created.” He gave and made laws; he made judgements about them; and he
carries out those laws – legislative, judicial and executive power.
It’s true Christ’s kingdom is not of this world: we enter it by “faith and
baptism”. Yet “it would be a grave error…to say that Christ has no authority
whatever in civil affairs, since…all things are in his power.”
It is in this way Pope Pius argues that welcoming Christ as King will bring
peace to the world. He says that if those in government do so, they will
understand their authority is not one with which they can legislate or impose
whatever they want, but rather a service and sacred trust which can only be
authentically exercised as a service to human freedom and dignity, and that if
citizens (that is, any member of society) allow Christ to rule, we can more easily
obey whomever – on our work, family, or civic life – has been set over us, as
when lived properly we are not simply obeying other people, but rather Christ
himself who rules us through them – as Jesus humbly did in his Passion.