This Thursday, November 1, is the feast of All Saints, which is a holy day of obligation in many countries, including the United States and all of the United Kingdom.
Today, the final Sunday of October, we celebrate the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. This feast takes the place of the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, with no commemoration of the Sunday. It is a joyful feast celebrating Jesus Christ as the eternal King of heaven and earth. Like all joyful feasts of our Lord, the liturgical color is white.
God is presented as a king throughout scripture. In Deuteronomy 10:17, he is called “the God of gods, and the Lord of lords, a great God and mighty and terrible.” In Psalm 9:37, King David writes, “The Lord shall reign to eternity, yea, for ever and ever.” The Prophet Daniel admonishes King Nebuchadnezzar, “But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). Later, after Daniel is delivered from the lion's den, King Darius declares, “It is decreed by me, that in all my empire and my kingdom all men dread and fear the God of Daniel. For he is the living and eternal God for ever: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his power shall be for ever” (Daniel 6:26). In the Prophecy of Jonah, we see that God has authority in heaven and on earth, and that his will cannot be escaped.
Earthly kingdoms also play a prominent role in the Old Testament. God appoints David to be King of Israel, and he appoints David's son Solomon to succeed him (1 Samuel 16:13, 2 Chronicles 1:9). Although the Prophet Daniel makes clear that God's kingdom will prevail over every earthly kingdom, the kingdom of David is significant because King David prefigures Christ. Jesus is called the “Son of David” because he is a direct descendant of King David and because he is a king in the line of David (Matthew 1:1-17, 21:9).
The prophets foretold Jesus Christ as the king. The title “Messiah,” which is synonymous with “Christ,” means “the anointed one,” implying an anointed king. The Prophet Jeremiah foretold a wise king from the line of David who would be a fair and righteous judge (Jeremiah 23:5, 33:15). The Prophet Isaiah foretells a man descended from Jesse, the father of King David, who would be filled with the spirit of God and would redeem God's people (Isaiah 11:1-3, 52:7-9). The Prophet Zechariah wrote, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be one” (Zechariah 14:9). Thus, the Messiah was to be a king who would reign over Israel.
When the angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive the Son of God, he told her, “He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). After Jesus's Incarnation, the wise men seek the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). In John 1:49, Jesus is addressed as the “King of Israel.” He is referred to as a king again at his Passion, when he is derided as the King of the Jews (John 19:3). The inscription on his Cross read, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). After his Resurrection, Jesus told his apostles, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). In the New Testament epistles, Jesus is hailed as the king of heaven and earth (1 Timothy 6:14-15, Hebrews 1:8). Finally, in the book of Apocalypse, Jesus reigns as king (Apocalypse 7:14-15, 19:16).
Contrary to many people's expectations, Jesus was not an earthly king. He said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). To this day, the Jewish people wait in vain for a Messiah who will be an earthly king over Israel. Rather, the kingdom of Jesus is the eternal kingdom that the Prophet Daniel foretold. Jesus calls us to detach ourselves from the world (John 17:14-16). Perhaps the greatest illustration of the kingdom of God can be found in one of the primary symbols of a king: his crown. Earthly kings wear crowns with expensive gold and jewels. Jesus Christ, the true King of heaven and earth, wore a Crown of Thorns. The Crown of Thorns had no earthly beauty—it only caused our Lord to bleed and suffer—but this is the crown of the kingdom of God.
|Crown of earthly kings.|
|Crown of the true King.|
The feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, a time when Europe was still recovering from World War I and was becoming increasingly secularized. Many of the major ruling dynasties of Europe had fallen, and there was a great amount of political turmoil that would eventually lead to World War II. In addition, the Pope was still held as a prisoner in the Vatican. Thus, Pope Pius XI reminded Catholics across the world of the kingdom of Christ that would have no end. He established the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, the Sunday before All Saints Day on November 1. In addition, he commanded that all of mankind be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on this feast day. Thus, once a year, we have a special feast to worship and dedicate ourselves to Jesus Christ, the King of heaven and earth.
In the United States, the feast of Christ the King falls shortly before Election Day. General elections are held in the United States every year on the Tuesday that falls between November 2 and November 8. Elections can be very difficult and stressful for many Americans. As Catholics, we must follow our conscience and vote for politicians who will best uphold the divine law. In particular, the most important duty of every government is to defend the infinite dignity and sanctity of every human life, from conception until natural death. However, even with all the stress of elections, we must never forget about the kingdom that will have no end. It is just as important in 2018 as it was in 1925. Jesus Christ is the true King, and his kingdom will always prevail.
The Introit for the feast of Christ the King is taken from Apocalypse 5:12, 1:6, in which Jesus Christ reigns as the “Lamb who was slain,” who reigns as the eternal King. The psalm verse is from Psalm 71:1, which refers to the kingship of Solomon, a foreshadowing of the kingship of Christ.
|Dignus est Agnus, qui
occísus est, accípere virtútem, et divinitátem, et sapiéntiam,
et fortitúdinem, et honórem. Ipsi glória et impérium in sǽcula
Deus, iudícium tuum Regi da: et iustítiam tuam Fílio Regis.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen
Dignus est Agnus, qui occísus est, accípere virtútem, et divinitátem, et sapiéntiam, et fortitúdinem, et honórem. Ipsi glória et impérium in sǽcula sæculórum.
|Worthy is the Lamb who
was slain to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and
strength, and honor. To him belong glory and dominion forever and
O God, with your judgment endow the King: and with your justice, the King’s son.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honor. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.
In the Collect, we pray for everyone in the world to worship and submit to Christ the King.
|Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui in dilécto Fílio tuo, universórum Rege, ómnia instauráre voluísti: concéde propítius; ut cunctæ famíliæ géntium, peccáti vúlnere disgregátæ, eius suavissímo subdántur império: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.||Almighty and eternal God, who willed to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the Universe, graciously grant that the peoples of the earth torn asunder by the wound of sin, may submit to his most gentle rule. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen|
The Epistle is taken from Colossians 1:12-20. In this passage, St. Paul first thanks God for allowing us to become saints. There is a strong connection between Christ the King and the saints, which is why we celebrate Christ the King on the Sunday before All Saints Day. St. Paul goes on to praise Christ the King for his authority both in heaven and on earth, finally hoping for the divine peace that comes through the Precious Blood of Christ the King.
|Fratres: Grátias ágimus Deo Patri, qui dignos nos fecit in partem sortis sanctórum in lúmine: qui erípuit nos de potestáte tenebrárum, et tránstulit in regnum Fílii dilectiónis suæ, in quo habémus redemptiónem per sánguinem eius, remissiónem peccatórum: qui est imágo Dei invisíbilis, primogénitus omnis creatúra: quóniam in ipso cóndita sunt univérsa in cœlis et in terra, visibília et invisibília, sive Throni, sive Dominatiónes, sive Principátus, sive Potestátes: ómnia per ipsum, et in ipso creáta sunt: et ipse est ante omnes, et ómnia in ipso constant. Et ipse est caput córporis Ecclésiæ, qui est princípium, primogénitus ex mórtuis: ut sit in ómnibus ipse primátum tenens; quia in ipso complácuit omnem plenitúdinem inhabitáre; et per eum reconciliáre ómnia in ipsum, pacíficans per sánguinem crucis eius, sive quæ in terris, sive quæ in cœlis sunt, in Christo Iesu Dómino nostro.||Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins; who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.|
The Gradual is from Psalm 71:8, 11, the same psalm that we sang a verse from in the Introit, which praises the kingship of Solomon and foreshadows the kingship of Christ. It is followed by the Alleluia Verse, which is from the Prophet Daniel's declaration that the kingdom of God will last forever (Daniel 7:14).
|Dominábitur a mari
usque ad mare, et a flúmine usque ad términos orbis terrárum.
Et adorábunt eum omnes reges terræ: omnes gentes sérvient ei.
Allelúia, allelúia. Potéstas eius, potéstas ætérna, quæ non auferétur: et regnum eius, quod non corrumpétur. Allelúia.
|He shall rule from sea
to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. All kings
shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.
Alleluia, alleluia. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed. Alleluia.
The Gospel is taken from John 18:33-37, in which Jesus, accused as the “King of the Jews,” stands before Pilate and tells him the true nature of the kingdom of God.
|In illo témpore: Dixit Pilátus ad Iesum: Tu es Rex Iudæórum? Respóndit Iesus: A temetípso hoc dicis, an álii dixérunt tibi de me? Respóndit Pilátus: Numquid ego Iudǽus sum? Gens tua et pontífices tradidérunt te mihi: quid fecísti? Respóndit Iesus: Regnum meum non est de hoc mundo. Si ex hoc mundo esset regnum meum, minístri mei útique decertárent, ut non tráderer Iudǽis: nunc autem regnum meum non est hinc. Dixit ítaque ei Pilátus: Ergo Rex es tu? Respóndit Iesus: Tu dicis, quia Rex sum ego. Ego in hoc natus sum et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimónium perhíbeam veritáti: omnis, qui est ex veritáte, audit vocem meam.||At that time, Pilate said to Jesus: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me? Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Thy own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.|
Finally, at both Vespers, we sing the hymn Te saeculorum Principem, which praises Christ as the King of heaven and earth, the great judge, and the source of peace.
Te, Christe, Regem géntium,
Te méntium, te córdium
Unum fatémur árbitrum.
Scelésta turba clámitat:
Regnáre Christum nólumus:
Te nos ovántes ómnium
Regem suprémum dícimus.
O Christe, Princeps Pácifer,
Mentes rebélles súbiice:
Tuóque amóre dévios,
Ovíle in unum cóngrega.
Ad hoc cruénta ab árbore
Pendes apértis brácchiis,
Diráque fossum cúspide
Cor igne flagrans éxhibes.
Ad hoc in aris ábderis
Vini dapísque imágine,
Fundens salútem fíliis
Te natiónum Prǽsides
Honóre tollant público,
Colant magístri, iúdices,
Leges et artes éxprimant.
Submíssa regum fúlgeant
Tibi dicáta insígnia:
Mitíque sceptro pátriam
Domósque subde cívium.
Iesu, tibi sit glória,
Qui sceptra mundi témperas,
Cum Patre, et almo Spíritu,
In sempitérna sǽcula.
|To thee, O Prince of all
Thou Christ, O King eternally;
O Framer of the mind and heart,
Our one true Judge we say thou art.
The wicked protest, wail and cry,
Christ Jesus’ reign they would deny;
Rejoice we at thy glorious name,
Thou Highest King we do proclaim.
O Christ! The Source of all our peace,
Make all our sinful thoughts to cease;
And still in us our loves misplaced,
As thy one sheepfold be we embraced.
For this, hanging on cruel tree,
With arms outstretched, for all to see;
His heart is pierced by soldier’s spear,
Revealing burning love most dear.
From this the altar of the tree
Thy blood flows forth from Calvary;
As wine to us it doth appear,
To thine own heart it draws us near.
Thou Governor of all that be,
May all thy creatures honour thee;
All those who rule, O Lord renew!
Source of all precepts just and true.
To regal glory, all submit,
All crowns and honours we do remit;—
To thy scepter—so sweet and mild!
Submit we as a little child.
All glory be, Jesu, to thee,
Thy scepter over all that be;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To Father and to Paraclete.
No matter what happens on Election Day, Jesus Christ is King of heaven and earth.