The Spiritual and Liturgical Meaning of Christ the King

Nov 24, 2016 | [post_view] Views


First of all, what is the liturgical significance of this feast? In other words, what does it mean for our worship? Essentially, the feast of Christ the king is final Sunday feast of the Catholic liturgical year in ordinary time. Liturgically, the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will close in Vatican with the liturgical celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King on the 20th of November 2016.

The Feast of Christ the King, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is the innermost meaning of the entire Old Testament summed up in the expression of the Kingdom of God. In the Gospel of Matthew alone, the notion of the Kingdom of Heaven or of God is mentioned 47 times – It is a major key of understanding the whole of Jesus’s message.
Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the increasing denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism throughout Europe. At the time of Quas Primas, many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ’s authority and existence, as well as the Church’s power to continue Christ’s authority.

Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was needed most.

This is what Pope Pius XI wrote in the original encyclical Quas Primas in 1924, the letter which officially instituted the Feast of Christ the King:
“This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things…and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.” (Quas Primas, #15)

The Church wants to make it clear that Jesus is not a political figure. Again, His kingdom is not of this world. Those are His own words. Though things like elections are important, we make a grave mistake to make politics our God.

This does not mean that Jesus Christ does not exercise power over the nation. Do not misunderstand Pope Pius. Pius says “it would be a grave error to say that Christ has no authority in civil affairs.” But the way He exercises that authority is through His church, through the establishment of a kingdom of love in the hearts of those who accept Him. It may be a simplistic image, but imagine the difference between the principal of a high school and a young man filled with the Holy Spirit. The principal makes direct decisions over the school, but the young man goes around forming clubs, prayer groups, influencing opinion, changing hearts, teaching the lost. Jesus goes through our world much more like that young man than as a principal. But at the end of time, in heaven, He becomes the principal and EVERYBODY gets called to the office! Pope Pius reminds us that Jesus exercises legislative, executive and judicial power over the universe. Legislative, because He has given us laws to obey; executive, because He still directs his Providential care over the earth; and judicial, because He will finally judge every man, woman and angel, whether they were kings of the earth or simple children. The final word is His. The buck stops with Him. That makes Him King.

It is fitting that the feast celebrating Christ’s kingship is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically wait for the promised Messiah (King).

One final thing: this is perhaps a hard thing to take. Establishing God’s kingdom in our hearts means that they will often be broken and they will often hurt. But what are we told in Scripture? “The Lord is close to the broken hearted. Those whose spirits are crushed, he will save (Psalm 34:18). And we are also told that those who have suffered with him will also reigned with him (2 Tim. 2:12). Those who lived like Him will live with Him forever. This is something that we should never, ever forget. Better a broken heart than a hard one. And if you feel like you have no heart left, than ask Jesus to give you His, for this is precisely what can happen when you take Holy Eucharist. For it is in such an exchange that His kingdom will be established on this earth, one heart at a time.


Written by:
Rev. Fr. Froilan Renato A. Briones, SSS
Rector/Parish Priest of Santuario Eucaristico – Sacred Heart Parish