This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. This feast was implemented by Pope Pius XI via his encyclical Quas Primas. In the Ordinary Form, this feast is celebrated the final Sunday of the liturgical year, as a way for Catholics to anticipate our joining Christ’s Kingdom in heaven.
For those of us who are traditionalists, the feast has an entirely different meaning. With the rest of our brothers we look forward to going to heaven and living under Christ’s rule. Yet if we look at the reason this feast was introduced, there’s far more to be celebrated. In the words of Pius XI, he instituted this feast because:
The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God’s religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences (Quas Primas 24)
While no earthly political system is perfect, there was a time in the history of the world where princes at least tried to govern their lands according to the dictates of the Gospel. Those times were gone in the 1920’s, and they are even more so during our present age. The Feast of Christ the King was instituted to not only honor Christ’s Kingship, but to enflame within the hearts of men a sentiment that Christ should govern the all the affairs of all men here on Earth.
This is a difficult teaching today. Not only has the world moved even further from Christ, Catholics have been told (by society and sadly by some in the Church) that to fight for these principles is wrong. We should accept that we will always be a minority among the nations, and that our principles, while salvific, will not have much bearing outside of our Churches.
It is tough to disagree with this assessment from a practical standpoint. We are likely not to see explicitly Catholic governments in our lifetime in our homes. We aren’t even likely to see a nation adopting certain moral precepts written within their own hearts. Does that mean there’s nothing we can do but look to a future age, as is the current popular devotion? To take this position neglects a venerable tradition within the Catholic world, that of reparation.
In the book of Job, we find pious Job frequently offering sacrifices for his family and friends. He hopes that his sacrifice can find favor with God, who can then shower down blessing on his friends and family, even if they are not worthy. Our Lady of Fatima says that people end up in hell because others do not engage in reparation.
This is what we should look at the Feast of Christ the King as an opportunity for: that of reparation. We come together, united in faith, to beg for God’s forgivness that our society has turned its back on God. This turning has happened in our homes, our culture, and our governments. Sometimes it has even happened among the leaders of the church, and among the lay faithful. With the collect, we pray that a world “kept apart by the wound of sin” be brought together under His rule.
In addition to offering that Mass in reparation for the offenses against Christ’s Kingship by others, we also offer it for our own offenses. How can we realistically expect Christ to rule over society, when he often does not rule over our own hearts? Those wounds of sin impact us as well, as we often choose that which is expedient or popular over what is God’s truth. This world became a secular world in many ways because we stopped viewing fighting for God’s ways in public affairs something worthwhile.
Consider using this Sunday as a time to change that. Commit yourselves to Christ ruling over your heart in all affairs, civic and religious. Committ yourself to presenting the Kingdom the preface speaks of: “a universal and eternal Kingdom: a Kingdom of truth and life: a Kingdom of holiness and grace: a Kingdom of justice, love and peace.” The very meaning of the word “Gospel” is a royal proclamation. If you want to preach Christ’s Kingdom, are you out there preaching the Gospel through word and action? Or are you waiting for someone else, the attitude that has gotten us to where we are?
It is true that in this generation, we are unlikely to see a government in accordance with Catholic principles, much less one that explicitly acknowledges Christ and His Church. Yet nothing stops us from deploring that state of affairs this Sunday, and nothing stops us from making sure such a state of life is not our own. The Postcommunion tells us that we who receive the Eucharist are “proud to fight under the banner of Christ our King.” Are we fighting?