The Social Kingship of Christ

Today, the last Sunday in October, is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Regis), according to the pre-Vatican II calendar of the Church which is still observed by those clergy and religious who celebrate the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, and the Divine Office according to the 1960 Rubrics of the Breviarium Romanum. It was instituted by His Holiness Pope Pius XI, of happy memory, on December 11, 1925, in his encyclical Quas Primas.

I have already reblogged today’s post from the excellent St. Louis Catholic blog briefly discussing this feast and exhorting the reader to be aware of its importance. I also noted my sadness at the nearly complete disappearance of the notion of the Kingship of Christ from the consciousness of just about everybody. In addition, it seems appropriate to present some of the words of Pius XI himself in his institution of the feast, which appear as readings at Matins on this day in the 1960 Divine Office:

“From the Encylical Letters of Pope Pius XI
Litt. Encycl. Quas primas diei 11 Decembris 1925
Since this Holy Year therefore has provided more than one opportunity to enhance the glory of the kingdom of Christ, we deem it in keeping with our Apostolic office to accede to the desire of many of the Cardinals, Bishops, and faithful, made known to Us both individually and collectively, by closing this Holy Year with the insertion into the Sacred Liturgy of a special feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This matter is so dear to Our heart, Venerable Brethren, that I would wish to address to you a few words concerning it. It will be for you later to explain in a manner suited to the understanding of the faithful what We are about to say concerning the Kingship of Christ, so that the annual feast which We shall decree may be attended with much fruit and produce beneficial results in the future. It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of “King,” because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign “in the hearts of men,” both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceedeth all knowledge.” And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father “power and glory and a kingdom,” since 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 foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. “Christ,” he says, “has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.” His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. Would that they who forget what they have cost their Saviour might recall the words: “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled.” We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us “with a great price”; our very bodies are the “members of Christ.” Let Us explain briefly the nature and meaning of this lordship of Christ. It consists, We need scarcely say, in a threefold power which is essential to lordship. This is sufficiently clear from the scriptural testimony already adduced concerning the universal dominion of our Redeemer, and moreover it is a dogma of faith that Jesus Christ was given to man, not only as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, to whom obedience is due. Not only do the gospels tell us that he made laws, but they present him to us in the act of making them. Those who keep them show their love for their Divine Master, and he promises that they shall remain in his love. He claimed judicial power as received from his Father, when the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath by the miraculous cure of a sick man. “For neither doth the Father judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son.” In this power is included the right of rewarding and punishing all men living, for this right is inseparable from that of judging. Executive power, too, belongs to Christ, for all must obey his commands; none may escape them, nor the sanctions he has imposed.

This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, 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. Christ as our Redeemer purchased the Church at the price of his own blood; as priest he offered himself, and continues to offer himself as a victim for our sins. Is it not evident, then, that his kingly dignity partakes in a manner of both these offices? It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Therefore by Our Apostolic Authority We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October – the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to be renewed yearly.”

Excerpted from QUAS PRIMAS, ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI ON THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING, Dec. 11, 1925; copied from DivinumOfficium.com, Ad Matutinum, 10/25/2020

Now that’s how a Pope ought to write to the clergy and the faithful. Just my opinion, you understand. I’ll bet if you go to the Vatican website you’ll be able to find several recent examples of the other kind of writing…you know, the verbose word salad sort of thing that’s been prevalent the past, oh, seven years or so. And I’ll make a little bet with you, without even checking first: In all the literally hundreds of pages of encyclicals, apostolic letters or exhortations or whatever that have come out of the Holy See since 2013, the word “Christ” won’t appear as many times as it does in the 34 paragraphs of Quas Primas. Try it, and let me know in a comment whether I win the bet or not.

One last point: If you pay attention to the liturgical calendar, you know that the post-Vatican II Church changed the date of this feast from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday before Advent. Thus, the Novus Ordo Church will not celebrate Christ the King until November 22. There are five Sundays in November this year, so the first Sunday of Advent is actually November 29. In any event, if you hear the words “Social Kingship of Christ” during the homily at a Novus Ordo Mass on November 22, consider yourself extremely fortunate, and don’t let that priest or deacon get away if you can help it. 🙂

Laudamus te, Domine Jesu Christe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.