Christ the King
by Abbot Gueranger
Christians have ever hailed our Divine Lord as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It was as a King that the representatives of the Eastern world came to adore Him in the manger; it was as a King, albeit not knowing what he did, that the official representative of the Western world lifted Him up upon the Cross. The patriarchs and prophets of the old dispensation foretold His royalty; He spoke constantly of His Kingdom: when asked plainly whether He were in truth a King by the representative of Caesar, He acknowledged that such indeed He was, though of a Kingdom not of this world.
“His Kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. It is spiritual and concerned with spiritual things. It is opposed to none other than that of Satan, and to the powers of darkness. Christ is King over angels and men; King over men’s hearts and wills; His Kingship 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.”
Yet, though His is a spiritual kingdom, opposed to no just earthly polity, “it would be a grave error 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. All men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual; in Him is the salvation of society.” (Encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI)
Today, we sadly behold “a world undone,” largely paganized in principles and outlook, and, in recent years, in one country even glorying in the name “pagan.” At the best, governments mostly ignore God; and at the worst, openly fight against Him, as we of today are witnessing in the Old World and in the New. Even the statesmen’s well-meant efforts to find a remedy for present ills and, above all, to secure world peace, prove futile because, whereas peace is from Christ, and possible only in the Kingdom of Christ, His Name is never mentioned throughout their deliberations or their documents. Christ is kept out of the state schools and seats of higher education; and the rising generations seem to be taught anything and everything save to know, love and serve Him. Art and literature all too frequently reflect the same tendencies.
Since the spirit of evil reigns inevitably wherever the spirit of Christ has ceased to reign, in public and in private men are flouting the moral laws of God, and some of the worst abominations of ancient paganism are becoming matters of every-day life. Moreover, be it remembered, modern paganism is worse than that of the ancient world, in that the former knows what it does as the latter did not. There is now an intense, positive hatred of Jesus Christ in the militant atheist, which differs in kind from the attitude of the fiercest Roman or Eastern persecutor: If I had not come and spoken to them…if I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father. (Jn. 15:22, 24)
Ever as practical as she is supernatural, the Church is not content with merely deploring the evil, nor even with counteracting it by sound teaching. She would also make definite reparation to the divine Majesty thus denied and defied; to Him Whose royalty is slighted and insulted. Something must be done by those who, in a measure, understand and love in order to atone for those who do not. “To repair the crime of lèse-divinity, which denies God’s rights over the human society whose Author He is, we must exalt Jesus Christ as King over all individuals, families, and peoples. If His universal royalty be proclaimed and His reign in society recognized, one of the principal evils of the modern world—the secularizing of public and private life—will be attacked at its roots.” (The Love of God and the Cross of Jesus by P. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP) Hence we have the special exhortation of the Vicar of Christ, and the institution of the Feast of this Divine Kingship.
“To this end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special Feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ. For people are instructed in the truths of Faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion, far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any pronouncement, however weighty, of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few, and those the more learned of the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year—in fact forever. The Church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; Her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature… We have commanded its observance on a Sunday, in order that not only the clergy may perform their duty by saying Mass and reciting the Office, but that the laity too, free from their daily tasks, may in a spirit of holy joy give ample testimony of their obedience and subjection to Christ… that they may so order their lives as to be worthy, faithful, and obedient subjects of the Divine King.” (Encyclical, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI)