The Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ the King on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.
The feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 at a time when the world was in chaos – World War I had just ended with a loss of an estimated 50 million lives, governments were hostile to one another, their economies were crumbling, people were suffering in poverty, and fascism, Nazism and communism were rearing their heads. The faithful grasped at the straws of false hopes and empty promises offered them by these new regimes, many abandoning the Church whose spiritual and moral teachings were made out to be anachronistic, irrelevant and burdensome.
It was in the context of this secular post-war society that Pope Pius XI dedicated his reign as Pope to the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ (Pax Christi in regno Christi). When he first instituted the feast, Pope Pius XI set its date on the last Sunday of October, one week before the feast of All Saints “to proclaim and extol the glory of Him who triumphs in all the saints and in all the elect.”
He wanted the whole Church to reclaim the throne of Christ for the world and affirm her profession of faith in the Creed that “His Kingdom will have no end” because, as he wrote in his encyclical Quas primas, “The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences i.e:
- the seeds of discord sown far and wide;
- bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder much the cause of peace;
- insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretence of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels;
- a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these;
- no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglected their duty;
- the unity and stability of the family undermined;
- society, in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin.”
If we add to this catastrophic climate change and global pandemics, the Holy Father’s observations are uncannily spot-on descriptions of both our real and virtual worlds today.
But worse was yet to come; World War II, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the chaos of decolonisation among other things led Pope Paul VI in 1969 to change the name and elevate the rank of the feast to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe, moving the date to the last Sunday in the liturgical year, just before Advent, to emphasise that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come. (Revelation 1:8)
So as we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov 22, let us reflect on the signs of our times and ask ourselves what meaning this feast holds for us today, individually and as Church.
Who sits on the throne of our hearts?
Is it our Self who sits there as master of our universe, with our ego, desires, passions, material possessions and sins crowding Christ out of our little kingdom, and banishing Him out of our sight, hearts and minds?
Or is it a passion or sin that rules our hearts, a disordered affection for, or an addiction to, a person or a thing that has taken control of our Self so that we are helpless to help ourselves or to cry out to God to help us?
Or is Christ our Lord on the throne, such that under His reign and the rule of His law of love, we are docile and surrendered to His Holy Spirit, allowing Him to bring peace and order into our otherwise chaotic lives?
May Christ always be our King of Hearts!