Grow Closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

with this free eBook, Christ the King: Prayers and Meditations.

In the 1920s, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in response to a growing trend toward secularization, communism, and atheism. The Pope knew that, as Christians, we should make Our Lord preeminent in every aspect of our lives.

With these prayers and meditations on Sacred Scripture, we hope you will deepen your relationship with Christ the King.

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When is Christ the King celebrated?

Each year we celebrate Christ’s sovereignty on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This year the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe is on November 21st, 2021.

When did the liturgical feast of Christ the King start?

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925, but it was first celebrated in 1926. Originally, it was designated for late October, but Pope St. Paul VI changed it to the final Sunday of the liturgical year, which is the Sunday before the beginning of Advent. This corresponds well to the end of history when Christ returns as King, a subject which the liturgies of the first half of Advent will take up.

Why did Pope Pius XI institute this feast of Christ the King?

When Pope Pius instituted this feast, it was in response to an increase in secularism and atheism. Christ the King was – and is – the answer to all human problems. Thus, in the encyclical Quas Primas, the Pope wrote,

We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord.

Is Christ referred to as a king in Sacred Scripture?

Pope Benedict XVI said,

The kingship of Christ remained completely hidden until he was 30 years old, years spent in an ordinary life in Nazareth. Then, during his public life, Jesus inaugurated the new Kingdom which "does not belong to this world" (Jn 18: 36), and finally, with his death and Resurrection, he fully established it.

The text the Pope references continues with John 18:37,

“Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.’”

Matthew 28:18 likewise says, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’”

There are other references to Jesus’ kingly reign, such 1 Corinthians 15:25-28 and Philippians 2:10-11: “… at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Doesn’t the title INRI on crucifixes point to Christ’s Kingship?

Yes, these are the initials for the Latin Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which means “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Pilate ordered that a sign with these ironic words be placed on Jesus’ cross above His head. Even though this was done to justify the Crucifixion, and not because Pilate believed it to be true, it was still fitting that the Cross in some way acknowledged Jesus’ Kingship.

“Oh, what happiness would be Ours if all men, individuals, families, and nations, would but let themselves be governed by Christ!” - Pope Pius XI

Why call Christ King, when so few nations still have kings?

Even though most nations no longer have kings or queens, most people understand the implications of the term. Human kings and queens wield sovereign authority by birthright, not necessarily personal excellence. Christ has not only authority, divine authority and power, but personal excellence and holiness, surpassing all creatures. Thus, in his encyclical On the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI explains,

It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of "King," because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors.

How is Christ the King celebrated?

The most appropriate way is to attend Mass on the Solemnity. Since it is always a Sunday it is also always a Holy Day of Obligation.

As it is the final week of the liturgical year, the prayer Te Deum might be offered, whether individually or in the family. This prayer of praise and thanksgiving is prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours every Sunday, and is solemnly prayed at the close of each calendar year by the Pope.

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