On the Feast of Christ the King: What’s in a Date?

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So what’s in a date? One Peter Five contributor Dr. Peter Kwasniewski asked that question recently when discussing the Church’s celebration for the Feast of Christ the King. The feast itself was instituted by Pope Pius XI with his encyclical Quas Primas (11 December 1925). The Holy Father states clearly his purpose for instituting such a universal feast day:

“The Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God of teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power.”

(…)

“Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.”

“The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds…He must reign in our wills…He must reign in our hearts…He must reign in our bodies and in our members…”

Understanding the full purpose of a feast day to honor the rule of Christ Our King, let’s now turn to the reasoning and intent behind the date selected by Pope Pius XI. As Dr. Kwasniewsi explains:

“One of the most egregious differences between the two calendars (in the Latin Rite) is the location of the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the old calendar, it is always celebrated on the last Sunday of the month of October, right before All Saints. In the new calendar, however, it is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, leading up to the First Sunday of Advent…”

“Pius XI’s intention…is to emphasize the glory of Christ as terminus of His earthly mission, a glory and mission visible and perpetuated in history by the saints. Hence the feast falls shortly before the Feast of All Saints, to emphasize that what Christ inaugurated in His own person before ascending in glory, the saints then instantiate and carry further in human society, culture, and nations. It is a feast primarily about celebrating Christ’s ongoing kingship over all reality, including this present world, where the Church must fight for the recognition of His rights, the actual extension of His dominion to all domains, individual and social.”

(Read the rest of this post at One Peter Five)

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