The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, which we will celebrate this Sunday to close the liturgical year before beginning the Season of Advent, is a very recent celebration on Roman calendar. It was established in 1925, by Pope Pius XI, in Quas Primas. There the Pope of Venerable Memory writes:
It was surely right, then, in view of the common teaching of the sacred books, that the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her Author and Founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings. And, in fact, she used these titles, giving expression with wonderful variety of language to one and the same concept, both in ancient psalmody and in the Sacramentaries. She uses them daily now in the prayers publicly offered to God, and in offering the Immaculate Victim. The perfect harmony of the Eastern liturgies with our own in this continual praise of Christ the King shows once more the truth of the axiom: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi. The rule of faith is indicated by the law of our worship.
The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled." We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ.
American's cringe at the idea of monarchy. And yet our fascination with the royal family and the royal wedding in England points to reveals some affirmation of the goodness of it on our parts. And while it is not the point of this reflection to justify the value of the monarchy, the Kingdom of Christ, the Church is a monarch, and today we celebrate the Christ is our True King. For his is "an eternal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace." (Preface for the Feast) And Christ the Lord uses the image of a king in various parables, many we have heard read at Sunday Eucharist these past few weeks.
I think of passages from Matthew, Chapters 21, 22,and 25. And of course, the Gospel for this year is the culmination of Matthew 25, where Christ the King gives judgment on the nations, separating the sheep and the goats and rewarding those who served him in the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked. This is a beautiful passage because in the tradition of the Church we say that Christ reigned from the Cross at Golgotha. The Cross is the Throne of our God. Of course Christ ascended to the Father to be enthroned at his right hand, where he lives to make intercession for us. But in his earthly life and in the heart of the Paschal Mystery, we see Christ reign from the Tree of Life, the Tree of Immortality. In this Gospel, Christ our Lord reveals the criteria of judgment for entry into his Kingdom. We should pay close attention to his words for he makes abundantly clear that "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." (Mt. 25:40)
One insight I had in my lectio of this passage earlier this week was that Christ identifies himself with the needy. And from this passage the Church derives the works of mercy. But as I mentioned above Christ rules from the Throne of the Cross. And we see there Christ identified completely with the characteristics he describes in the works of mercy. For gazing upon our Crucified King, we see him hungry, thirsty and naked. We see him sick and imprisoned. Christ and identified himself with the poor, with those who are oppressed, with the marginalized, with the outcast. Thus in a beautiful way, when we minister to those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or imprisoned, we serve our King, because we see in these people and image, an icon of our Crucified Lord.
Let us pray with the Liturgy for this great feast in thanksgiving to the Eternal Father for the gift of the reign of Christ:
For you anointed your Only Begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, with the oil of gladness
as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption
and, making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your 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.
And let us not forget as we celebrate this great solemnity of the Kingship of Christ, that through our own baptism, we share in the royal priesthood of Christ. Today we might ask the Lord to help us imitate his kingly example from the cross by learning to love as we see modeled by our Crucified King.