Why has the Feast of Christ the King, which apparently
originated as recently as 1925, risen to such prominence? Was it
devised (partly) in order to rehabilitate the idea and the
institution of monarchy after the cataclysm of the First World
Only a few years after the Bolshevik October Revolution, and at
a time in Europe after the First World War when fascism and
dictatorships posed a serious threat, Pope Pius XI in 1925 did
indeed inaugurate a new festival in honour of the Kingship of
Christ. This was primarily intended to counter the claims of
secularism by holding up the model of Christ, as King of the
Creation, whose just and gentle rule is supreme.
In 1970, the RC Church moved the festival from its late-October
date to the last Sunday in the church year: not only was its
importance in the calendar increased, but it came to be adopted by
non-Roman churches, not least in the Anglican Communion. In the
Church of England, after a tentative appearance in The Promise
of His Glory, it was made a mandatory celebration in
Common Worship, on the Sunday next before Advent.
Several theological and liturgical considerations account for
the prominence of its observance. It concludes the Christian year
with a climactic celebration that focuses on Christ as glorified
Lord and King - a powerful reminder that praise of his Kingship is
always the theme of the calendar. Many times it has been pointed
out that every Sunday by its name, dominica,
kyriake, is really designated as a day of Christ the King.
In addition, this festival also deepens awareness of the final end
of all things in the triumph of Christ: it brings the cycle of the
liturgical year to an end, but looks forward to its turning again
on Advent Sunday. Worship of Christ on his throne leads on to the
message of Christ as Judge.
The spirituality of this festival must never be forgotten or
understated. No one recognised this more than Henri Nouwen in his
Sabbatical Journey: "on the last Sunday of the liturgical
year, Christ is presented to us as the mocked King on the Cross as
well of the King of the universe. The greatest humiliation and the
greatest victory are both shown to us in today's liturgy. It is
important to look at this humiliated and victorious Christ before
we start the new liturgical year with the celebration of Advent.
All through the year we have to stay close to the humiliation as
well as to the victory of Christ, because we are called to live
both in our own daily lives."
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Address for answers and more questions: Out of the Question,
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