Catholic Q&A: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Catholic Q&A: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

By Fr. Rick Poblocki

What does the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, celebrate?

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is celebrated on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time.  It recognizes the messianic Kingship and eternal Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  This idea appears and is repeated in all prayers and readings of the day, and especially in the public recitation of the indulgenced prayer, The Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King.  This feast is sometimes called “Solemnity of Christ the King.”

What kind of a Feast is the celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe?

The Feast of Christ the King is a Solemnity, a Feast of the highest rank.  This Solemnity is also a type of celebration known as an idea feast.  Idea feasts direct our attention to some specific truth about Our Lord.

What specific truth is taught about the Lord Jesus Christ in the Solemnity of Christ the King?

The celebration of Christ the King directs our attention to Jesus Christ as Universal king and Eternal Priest.

What other examples of idea feasts are there?

Other examples of idea feasts are the Solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time, which include the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi), and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

How are idea feasts different from celebrations like the Transfiguration, Christmas, or Easter?

The difference between the two types of celebrations is simple: idea feasts celebrate a specific truth about Jesus Christ, while feasts like the Transfiguration, Christmas, and Easter celebrate an event that occurred in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When was the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, originally instituted?

Compared to some of the more ancient feasts that go back for centuries, the Solemnity of Christ the King is quite new!  This Solemnity honoring the Kingship of Christ was originally instituted in the year 1925 by Pope Pius XI.  The Holy Father authorized the institution of this Feast with the publication of the Encyclical Letter Quas primas (pronounced kwass pree-mahz), translated into English as On the Feast of Christ the King.  Pope Pius XI originally placed the Solemnity of Christ the King on the last Sunday of October, so that the Feast of Our Lord’s Kingship would be followed by the Solemnity of All Saints, which is celebrated on November 1.  With the reform of the Roman Liturgy after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Solemnity of Christ the King was transferred from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday of the Church Year.  The reason for doing this was to close the Church Year with a fitting celebration of the victorious and sovereign Kingship of Jesus – an excellent and appropriate end to the Church’s year cycle of Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials!

What did Pope Pius XI wish to teach in Quas primas?

In addition to instituting the Feast of Christ the King, the Holy Father brought up various other points in Quas primas:

  • Both the Scriptures and the writings of the Church Fathers clearly show that “Christ as Man deserves both the title and power of King in strict reality” (Quas primas, 9)
  • The Holy Father strongly links devotion to Christ the King with Eucharistic Adoration and devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • In establishing the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI sought to foster and emphasize recognition of the Christ’s “rights” over our minds, hearts, and will as King.
  • In reminding us of Christ’s Kingship and in promoting the Lord Jesus’ “rights” over us as “King,” the Holy Father sought to overcome the rising tide of contemporary anticlericalism, laicism, secularism, and atheism that now controls the minds of so many people today!

Why was the Feast of Christ the King instituted?

The Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, wished to combat and deter a rising trend toward godlessness and challenges to the Kingship of Christ, which began to take the form of rejecting the existence of God (atheism), attempts to exclude the input of the clergy in public discussions (anticlericalism), attempts to remove the influence of God in the formulation of laws, public policy, healthcare, or education (laicism), and the attempt on the part of individuals, families, groups, and nations to live and act as if God didn’t exist, and that His laws should be replaced by human or man-made laws (secularism).  The problem was further aggravated by attempts to not only bring the public to this way of thinking, but even to draw devout Christians into these erroneous ways of thought.  Ultimately, these errors are a denial of God’s rightful place in our lives, our families, and our nations.  It is a foretaste of the great deception that the Antichrist will use to attract people into apostasy and the abandonment of faith in God and His Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:4-12; 1 John 2:18; 2 John 7).  The great religious deception will lead people to believe that a true solution to their problems can and will be found apart from God and His Christ – the ultimate deception!

Note: Read the amazing prophecy in the Catechism (673-679) about the events that will lead up to, and take place before, Christ’s Return in Glory!

What is anticlericalism, and why is it bad?

Anticlericalism is an opinion that demands the exclusion of any influence of the clergy in public affairs.  The danger in  this outlook lies in silencing the clergy.  Throughout the history of Western civilization, it was often only through Christ’s clergy, and their influence in public affairs, that justice was obtained for the defenseless and the public good was promoted!  As a form of opposition to the Kingship of Christ, Pope Pius XI notes in Quas primas:

“It would be a great error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since by virtue of the absolute empire

[i.e. His rule] over all creatures committed to Him by the Father, all things are in His power” (Quas primas, 17).

What is laicism?

Like anticlericalism, laicism also opposes the involvement of the clergy in public affairs, but laicism also attempts to create, promote, and exert a sole non-religious control of all or any social institutions of a society.  The danger in this point of view is that since God created humanity and its eternal destiny, God is essential to both true human progress in society and humanity’s “completion” in Heaven.  We must oppose this philosophy because the Church is mandated by Christ to be actively involved in public affairs because jesus is the Redeemer and Lord of all peoples, all institutions, and all societies.  Pope Pius XI quotes Pope Leo XIII:

“Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men.  To use the words of Our Immortal Predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: ‘His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian Faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ” (Quas primas, 18).

What is secularism?

Secularism is a political view or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and its influence upon society, especially in the political or social realm.  People thinking this way are called secularists.  This error takes the concrete form of trying to remove or destroy any form of religious influence or involvement in matters of public education, the creation of social and civil policy, and most recently, in public healthcare. This error is very common today, and poses very serious dangers.  While Catholics do not wish to turn society into theocracy (a society ruled by the Church or clergy), we oppose secularism because it denies God His rightful place in governing our lives by His just laws and Divine Wisdom.  Those who live by this philosophy run the risk of not only losing their souls, but also causing others to lose their souls for all eternity.  Christians cannot stand by and let this happen!

What is atheism?

Atheism is an outlook that rejects the existence of God or the supernatural.  A person who holds these views is known as an atheist.  Those who neither accept or reject the existence of God are called agnostics.  The error of atheism denies the fundamental reason for everything: God.  Atheism challenges the Kingship of Christ by denying that all humanity – believers and unbelievers – are subject to God and the Kingship of Jesus Christ.

What can Catholics do in the face of so many threats to the Faith in the world and society?

The Holy Father Pope Pius XI gives this excellent advice for us to follow:

“While nations insult the Beloved Name of Our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim His kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm His rights!” (Quas primas, 25).

How does “the State” attempt to take the place that is rightfully God’s?

“The State” usurps the rightful place of God when it attempts to replace the law of God with its man-made laws, or laws based upon human authority, and by promising us happiness and wholeness if we abide by them.  This is a serious error that is sometimes called pseudo- or political messianism (CCC, 675-676).  Thus, “the State” has no right or power in God’s eyes to dissolve marriages, to legalize abortion, to recognize same-sex arrangements as “marriages,” or to approve cloning, embryonic stem cell research (as opposed to harvesting umbilical cord stem cells, which is both legitimate and more effective), and euthanasia.  When a State or Nation dabbles in such abominations, the seeds of that State’s eventual destruction and the oppression of millions are being sown!  “The State” may never take the place of the lawful rights of God.

Not to be cynical, but does the Catholic Church seriously believe that the institution of a Feast honoring Christ’s Kingship would make any credible difference?

From a human point of view, the picture looks bleak and even hopeless.  Yet, Christians are bound to oppose and attempt that seeks to curtail, undermine, or destroy the rightful influence of God and religion in the areas of education, healthcare, the governing of a nation, and all other social services that are offered.  These errors must be opposed by Christians because:

  • Every human is person is created by God for the supernatural destiny of joining Him in Heaven.
  • If Catholics and other Christians fail to fight those that believe and promote the notion that God and religion are irrelevant in everyday life, then many souls will lose their place with god in Heaven!  Calling people to enter God’s Kingdom is the fundamental Mission of the Church, the Body of Christ!  So, failing to fight this is to fail in the Mission!
  • The institution of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, serves the purpose of reminding us and affirming for people the divinely-revealed Truth that Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, possesses, as our God and Redeemer, sovereignty, Lordship, and rule over each individual person, all families, all communities, “the State,” all nations, and the entire universe!
  • The Feast of Christ the King attacks and exposes the empty foolishness of these errors, which offer only a false promise of happiness, and only passing pleasure that is limited only to this life on earth.
  • The Feast of Christ the King corrects these errors by:
    • Insisting that God and His Christ really exist
    • Affirming that Jesus’ life, Mission, suffering, Death, and Resurrection have the ultimate meaning for troubled and aching humanity
    • Affirming God’s irreplaceable position in the life of every person, and that the peace humanity yearns for can be found in God alone
    • Showing that Christ the King promises us eternal happiness in Heaven.  This is a hope that no State, no politician, no atheist, no secularist, no followers of laicism, and no anticlerical can give you!
  • Finally, never forget: GOD IS IN CHARGE! His Will and plan will be carried out, just as He wants it!

What is the nature of Christ’s Priesthood and Kingship?

Christ’s Kingship is a Messianic Kingship.  That is, Jesus Christ is a Priest-King Who exercises His sovereignty through the shedding of His Most Precious Blood for our salvation and redemption.  Our Lord exercises His universal Kingship by “making all created things subject to His rule,” that He might present to the immensity of God’s majesty “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace” (Preface for the Solemnity of Christ the King).  The Catechism illustrates in no. 786 how Christ exercises His Kingship:

  • “He exercises His Kingship by drawing all men to Himself through His Death and Resurrection” (CCC, 786; John 12:32).
  • “Christ King and Lord of the universe, made Himself the servant of all, for He came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for the many” (CCC,786; Matthew 20:28).
  • Christ allows us to share in His royal office.  We share in Jesus’ royal office by being servants as He was – especially when we serve the poor and suffering like He did – because for us, “to reign is to serve Him” (CCC, 786).
  • In serving the poor, we as the Church recognize in the poor “the image of our poor and suffering Founder” (Lumen Gentium [English translation: The Pastoral Constitution of the Church], 8; 36).

How is Christ the Eternal Priest, and how does He exercise His Priesthood?

Christ is the Eternal Priest because He offers Himself as the reconciling Sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross “as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace” (Preface for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe).

Does the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King have any special features?

A key feature is Pope Pius XI’s recommendation that a special prayer of Dedication of the Human Race to Christ the King be recited publicly each year.  While in many places this practice is ignored, the Enchiridion Indulgentiarium (pronounced enn-keer-rid-dee-yum  in-dull-jent-see-ar-ree-yum), the Catholic Church’s official Handbook on Indulgences still directs that:

“A partial indulgence is granted to the Faithful, who piously recite the above Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King.  The indulgence will be a plenary one when this act is publicly recited on the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, the King” (Enchiridion Indulgentiarium, Norms and Grants, no. 27; pg. 59 of the Barry English translation).

What ideas reconvened in the Collect of the Mass?

The Collect (formerly called the Opening Prayer) echoes Pope Pius XI’s Quas primas in stating that it is God’s “will to restore all things in Your beloved Son, the King of the Universe.”  It reflects the Pope’s belief that our crumbling civilization can be brought back to true freedom and peace insofar as we turn back to Christ the true King.  It’s a vision in line with the Book of Revelation that sees the Lord Jesus as the “Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 22:33).  The Collect also asks that the entire creation be subject to Christ, so that it may know true wholeness, peace, and freedom from slavery, for being subject to Christ is not slavery, but true liberation.

What is the Prayer Over the Offerings saying?

As the Church, our act of offering the bread and wine is described as “the sacrifice by which the human race is reconciled” to God.  This notion of “reconciliation” reflects what St. Paul writes in Colossians 1:20 – which appears as the second reading in Year C of the lectionary cycle for this Feast.  The Father is petitioned to grant that Jesus Himself may “bestow on all nations the gifts of unity and peace.”  Unity and peace are key marks of Jesus’ Victory.  Unity is all minds and hearts acting in unison with the mind and will of God, and all acting in accord with each other.  Peace is the biblical Shalom – all creation restored God.

What ideas are conveyed in the Preface for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe?

The Preface serves the purpose of listing the reasons why we are adoring God and offering thanks in this particular celebration. The main part of the Feast’s Preface echoes the Scriptural theme of anointing, found in texts like Psalm 45:8; Isaiah 61:1; Hebrews 1:9; and Luke, 4:18, 21.  Recognizing the Priests and Kings anointed in the Old Testament, the Preface applies the notion of anointing to the Lord Jesus, Who is both the Eternal Priest and Universal King of all Creation.  As Priest, Christ uses the Cross as His Altar, with He Himself as the “victim” or offering – understood in the biblical sense of being a “spotless” or unblemished sacrifice (Exodus 12:5).  The New Testament repeats the notion of being “unblemished” in order to bring about “peace,” union with God (cf. Hebrews 9:14).  Only the sacrifice of Christ can make such peace possible.  Jesus’ offering of Himself:

  • Accomplishes the mysteries of human redemption
  • Makes all created things subject to His rule
  • Enables Him to present to the Father an eternal and universal Kingdom

There are 9 characteristics of Christ’s Kingdom:

  • Christ’s Kingdom is eternal and universal, because Christ, God, and man encompasses all.
  • Christ’s Kingdom is of truth and life, while this world’s “kingdoms” are often built on lies and spiritual death.
  • It is a Kingdom of holiness and grace, in contrast to the secularism and godlessness that so often characterizes life on earth.
  • It is of justice, love, and peace, as opposed to a world where people are deprived of what what is justly theirs, and are often hurt by the selfishness and injustice of others.

Christ’s rule demands that we render to others what they have a right to (justice), and that we treat others as we would want ourselves to be treated (love).  Only when people treat each other justly, and when we treat each other the way we would like to be treated, will there be true peace.  This comes with a change of heart only Christ can bring about by His saving work on the Cross.  No system of atheism, anticlericalism, secularism, or laicism will ever change a human heart and prepare a person for eternal union with God – only Christ can!  Of course, this leads us, along with the angels in Heaven to proclaim: “Holy, Holy, Holy…”

What is the Prayer after Communion saying?

The Post-Communion prayer of this Feast begins by describing the taking of Holy Communion as “Having received the Food of Immortality,” which echoes John 6:51: “I Myself am the Living Bread come down from Heaven.”  The Post-Communion prayer then asks the Father to give us the grace of “glorifying in obedience to the commands of Christ, the King of the Universe” so that the union created in us by taking Holy Communion will continue in daily living by obedience to Our Lord and King’s commands.  We “glory” in such an obedience, because it brings us into union with Jesus, on earth and eternally.

Are there any signs and indicators that Christ is reigning as King in my life?

The clearest sign of Christ’s Presence and Kingly Rule within you is:

  • The inspiration to set aside or deny yourself anything you know or realize is displeasing to Him.
  • When you choose to deliberately reject any desires, urges, wishes, or drives that stand in the way of what needs to be done in order for you to possess Him, love Him, and serve Him.

These are clear signs of Jesus’ Presence and Kingly rule of your heart in your personal life and experience!

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Long Live Christ the King!



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