Feastday Highlights: Solemnity of Christ the King

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Nov 20, 2015

This post was originally written in 2014.

This Sunday the Liturgical Year ends not in a sad or a small way, but culminates in the celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. During November the liturgy has been keeping an eschatological theme and this feast reminds us of that end in hope and glory. In the current calendar the feast falls on the 34th or Last Sunday in Ordinary Time, with the following Sunday being the first Sunday of Advent. In the 1962 Missal, Christ the King falls in the last Sunday of October.

Because it was established only in the last century in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, established traditions attached to the feast are few. That gives the freedom to stretch our imaginations to bring this feast home in a way that can highlight the beauty of honoring Jesus as King. To do this In my family we emphasize simple regality.

Our Mother Church knows how to reach everyone -- She knows that we are not all alike. In her vast repertoire, She celebrates feasts that fit a youth's heart. When boys' thoughts turn to knights, kings, castles and dragons, the Feasts of the Archangels, St. George and St. Martin of Tours are a perfect fit. The Solemnity of Christ the King is another feast of this genre that easily ignites a child's imagination.

In our modern day the idea of an earthly sovereign king is difficult to accept and understand especially for adults. On this feast we can allow ourselves to give full homage and obedience to our only King. For children, this is an easier concept. My two sons have easily made the connection that Jesus is the King of all, the greatest King. Counting down the last days of the Liturgical Year on our laminated liturgical calendar help them look forward to the feast. Our discussions include preparing Christ's throne in our hearts, so He will stay with us. Since we are going to be in the King's presence at Mass, this is a reminder to be well-behaved in the presence of Royalty, to actively sing and participate at Mass.

We recognize and honor our King in song and allegiance, sometimes with a simple family procession. One of our favorite hymns is For Christ the King by Father Daniel Lord, S.J. from 1933. My sons love this lively march and the words inspire them to pledge their hearts and honor to Christ. We are partial to the recording from the cd Non Nobis Domine by Seton School, directed by my mother (also found on this YouTube video). The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah is another resounding piece of music that captures the enthusiasm of this feast day: "King of Kings and Lord of Lords! And He shall reign for ever and ever."

The next day, November 23 is normally Blessed Miguel Pro's feast day, but it is a wonderful tie-in to share the "Viva Christo Rey!", "Long live Christ our King!" said by the Mexican martyrs.

The final emphasis is our family meal. We already try to emphasize the special meal for celebrating Sunday as the day of resurrection. I've written before elsewhere on simple ways to make a regal meal. But this feast sparks children's imaginations, and it is fun to see what they think is a meal "fit for a king." I like to be open to suggestions from my children, but if the meal is of my choice, a crown roast, a very nice steak, roast or a beautiful ham (jeweled with cloves) would add the crowing glory to the meal, mashed potatoes and other "fixings" and then a crown-shaped cake for dessert. That cathedral cake pan or Bundt pan from the Dedication of St. John Lateran easily transforms a cake into a crown shape for the feast. And for the adults, a high feast day needs a special wine or alcoholic beverage. For literal drinkers, how about Crown Royal over the rocks? Or find a wine from a winery with a royal-sounding name or a very regal label to bring a visual reminder of the feast.

Regardless how simple the royal presentation will be, to see this feast through a child's eyes is such a lesson. The enthusiasm and imagination of young boys who love knights and kings can be the beginning of recognizing the beauty and depth of the liturgy. It is a blessing to be a mother and to be able to witness God's grace work without my interference. Sometimes, everything falls into place and a feast day is celebrated just as planned. More often than not our careful plans must adjust to events in life. But it is even better when the main goal is achieved: that every member in the family takes the outward celebrations to heart and makes spiritual connections and perhaps grows deeper interiorly.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, home schooler, and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org's liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jgmiller - Nov. 22, 2014 8:23 PM ET USA

    James, the language for feasts can get confusing. The term "feast" as a general term for all special days on the liturgical calendar. But then there are rankings within all the feastdays, Solemnity being highest, then feast, memorial and optional memorial. Christ the King has always been a solemnity in the current calendar. In the 1962 calendar, the classifications were different: I, II, and III class feasts and commemorations. Christ the King was a Feast of the First Class, the highest rank.

  • Posted by: James.Sabatier1135 - Nov. 22, 2014 9:21 AM ET USA

    Please explain the difference between a "feast" and "solemnity". We have transitioned for the Feast of Christ the King to the Solemnity of Christ the King.....and somehow I missed the explanation for the change. I guess I really just don't know my stuff