Ordinary Time: November 26th
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Other Titles: Feast of Christ the King
"Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, 'until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.' That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ's return by saying to him: Marana tha! 'Our Lord, come!'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 671)
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, formerly referred to as "Christ the King," was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man's thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ's royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.
Today's Mass establishes the titles for Christ's royalty over men: 1) Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; "All things were created by Him"; 2) Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; 3) Christ is Head of the Church, "holding in all things the primacy"; 4) God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion.
Today's Mass also describes the qualities of Christ's kingdom. This kingdom is: 1) supreme, extending not only to all people but also to their princes and kings; 2) universal, extending to all nations and to all places; 3) eternal, for "The Lord shall sit a King forever"; 4) spiritual, Christ's "kingdom is not of this world." — Rt. Rev. Msgr. Rudolph G. Gandas
In the 1962 Roman Missal this feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of October.
Commentary on the Sunday Mass Readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year A:
The First Reading is taken from Ezekiel 34:11-12; 15-17. In his infinite love and kindness God consoled and encouraged the Jewish exiles in Babylonia through the prophet Ezekiel. He told them they would return to their own country where they would once more be a Chosen People directly under his divine care. He described the relationship between his people and himself under the image of a flock of sheep and its shepherd. This prophecy given by God over 500 years before Christ came on earth was fulfilled to the letter in Christ; as Christ himself declared and as history has proved. The Son of God came on earth as man to give all men eternal life. He founded the new sheepfold, the new Chosen People, the kingdom of God on earth, to prepare for entry into heaven all who will enter its gates. We are fortunate to belong to that kingdom. We have a king who has proved his love by dying for us in order to give us life. By his sufferings our wounds were healed; by his death on the cross he has conquered death; by his resurrection he has made our physical death the doorway that leads to everlasting life.
The Second Reading is taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 15:20-26, 28, chosen because of the reference to the kingship of Christ. It was Christ who founded the new kingdom of God on earth and he will reign over it until the final victory is won. It is very fitting that the Church should dedicate the last Sunday of the liturgical year to honoring Christ, her founder and Savior, as King of the universe. We close our liturgical year, therefore, with a feastday which honors Christ as man and we give him the highest title a man can have as we proclaim him our King. Although this title was introduced only in recent times by Pius XI, its meaning and understanding go back to the very beginning of Christianity. St. Paul tells us in today’s reading that Christ began his triumphant reign at the moment of his resurrection and that it will continue on earth until his last opponent is overcome. That will be on the day of the final judgment. Christ’s kingdom on earth will then pass into the Father’s eternal kingdom of heaven, where Christ as God will reign in majesty together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Christ is our king in this world. Let us make sure that he will be our king for all eternity by doing our best to be his loyal subjects here on earth.
The Gospel is from Matthew 25:31-36, with Jesus describing his second coming as that of a king arriving in all his majesty and sitting on his kingly throne to judge all mankind. Christ himself in this description of the last judgement, describes his role as that of a king. This gospel reading, therefore, reminds us of the Kingship of Christ. On this feast of Christ our King, let us renew our pledge of loyalty to him, and so that this pledge will not be an empty formula, let each one of us resolve to study once more the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and see how well we put them into practice. If we have failed in the past, let us resolve to begin again today. Let us help one another by bearing one another’s burdens. This is what Christ asks of us. This is how we can prove ourselves loyal and grateful subjects. This is what we will be judged on when we meet him on our last day. If we love our neigh or with an active and practical love for Christ’s sake, we are thereby loving God, and are keeping “the two greatest commandments on which the whole law and the prophets depend.”
—Excerpted from The Sunday Readings, Year A by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
Christ the King as Represented in the Liturgy
The liturgy is an album in which every epoch of Church history immortalizes itself. Therein, accordingly, can be found the various pictures of Christ beloved during succeeding centuries. In its pages we see pictures of Jesus suffering and in agony; we see pictures of His Sacred Heart; yet these pictures are not proper to the nature of the liturgy as such; they resemble baroque altars in a gothic church. Classic liturgy knows but one Christ: the King, radiant, majestic, and divine.
With an ever-growing desire, all Advent awaits the "coming King"; in the chants of the breviary we find repeated again and again the two expressions "King" and "is coming." On Christmas the Church would greet, not the Child of Bethlehem, but the Rex Pacificus — "the King of peace gloriously reigning." Within a fortnight, there follows a feast which belongs to the greatest of the feasts of the Church year — the Epiphany. As in ancient times oriental monarchs visited their principalities (theophany), so the divine King appears in His city, the Church; from its sacred precincts He casts His glance over all the world....On the final feast of the Christmas cycle, the Presentation in the Temple, holy Church meets her royal Bridegroom with virginal love: "Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ your King!" The burden of the Christmas cycle may be summed up in these words: Christ the King establishes His Kingdom of light upon earth!
If we now consider the Easter cycle, the luster of Christ's royal dignity is indeed somewhat veiled by His sufferings; nevertheless, it is not the suffering Jesus who is present to the eyes of the Church as much as Christ the royal Hero and Warrior who upon the battlefield of Golgotha struggles with the mighty and dies in triumph. Even during Lent and Passiontide the Church acclaims her King. The act of homage on Palm Sunday is intensely stirring; singing psalms in festal procession we accompany our Savior singing: Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, "Glory, praise and honor be to Thee, Christ, O King!" It is true that on Good Friday the Church meditates upon the Man of Sorrows in agony upon the Cross, but at the same time, and perhaps more so, she beholds Him as King upon a royal throne. The hymn Vexilla Regis, "The royal banners forward go," is the more perfect expression of the spirit from which the Good Friday liturgy has arisen. Also characteristic is the verse from Psalm 95, Dicite in gentibus quia Dominus regnavit, to which the early Christians always added, a ligno, "Proclaim among the Gentiles: the Lord reigns from upon the tree of the Cross!" During Paschal time the Church is so occupied with her glorified Savior and Conqueror that kingship references become rarer; nevertheless, toward the end of the season we celebrate our King's triumph after completing the work of redemption, His royal enthronement on Ascension Thursday.
Neither in the time after Pentecost is the picture of Christ as King wholly absent from the liturgy. Corpus Christi is a royal festival: "Christ the King who rules the nations, come, let us adore" (Invit.). In the Greek Church the feast of the Transfiguration is the principal solemnity in honor of Christ's kingship, Summum Regem gloriae Christum adoremus (Invit.). Finally at the sunset of the ecclesiastical year, the Church awaits with burning desire the return of the King of Majesty.
We will overlook further considerations in favor of a glance at the daily Offices. How often do we not begin Matins with an act of royal homage: "The King of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins — come, let us adore" (Invit.). Lauds is often introduced with Dominus regnavit, "The Lord is King". Christ as King is also a first consideration at the threshold of each day; for morning after morning we renew our oath of fidelity at Prime: "To the King of ages be honor and glory." Every oration is concluded through our Mediator Christ Jesus "who lives and reigns forever." Yes, age-old liturgy beholds Christ reigning as King in His basilica (etym.: "the king's house"), upon the altar as His throne.
—Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Highlights and Things to Do:
- A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who on the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, publicly recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Christ the King (Iesu dulcissime, Redemptor); a partial indulgence is granted for its use in other circumstances.
- A procession for Christ the King on this feast day, either in the Church or at home is appropriate for this feast. The Blessed Sacrament would be carried and the procession would end with a prayer of consecration to Christ the King and Benediction. Try to participate if your parish has a Christ the King procession. If not, try having one at home (minus the Blessed Sacrament).
- Read Pope Pius XI's encyclical Quas primas (On the Feast of Christ the King) which shows that secularism is the direct denial of Christ's Kingship.
- Listen to the Catholic Culture audiobooks read by James Majewski:
- Listen to the Catholic Culture podcast on interview by Thomas Mirus: 90—Leo XIII on the State’s Duties Toward the Church—Thomas Pink
- Learn more about secularism — read the Annual Statement of the Bishops of the United States released on November 14, 1947.
- Being a relatively newer feast on the Liturgical calendar, there are no traditional foods for this day. Suggested ideas: a wonderful family Sunday dinner, and bake a cake shaped as a crown or King Cake or a bread in shape of a crown in honor of Christ the King. See Catholic Cuisine for other ideas.