Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe: Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
The First Reading is from 2 Samuel 5:1-3. Saul, the first king of Israel, was told by the prophet Samuel that the kingship would not remain in his family because he had disobeyed the laws of God. David was chosen by God to replace him and was anointed secretly by Samuel in Bethlehem.
The institution of the feast of the Kingship of Christ was intended to be a rallying-call to all Christians to acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ, not only over all Christians and all men but over all of creation. He is king of all creation because, as the second reading today says, “through him, by him and in him all things subsist.” Therefore, he is the sovereign Master, Ruler, Protector and Judge of all created things. The title of King was chosen to express all these prerogatives, because he himself, in his moment of deepest humiliation, admitted to Pilate that he was King. He is given this title in most of the Old Testament prophecies concerning him.
The story of David’s anointing as king over all of Israel is recalled on this feast of the Kingship of Christ, because David was seen in the Old Testament as a type, a representation, of the future messianic king. David, although the greatest of the kings of Israel, was but a poor shadow of Christ the King, whose reign extends, not only over all Israel, but over all the universe and all things created in heaven as well as on earth.
The Second Reading is from St. Paul to the Colossians 1:12-20. St. Paul tells the Colossians how grateful they ought to be to God for having made them Christians and citizens of Christ’s kingdom. The Apostle then goes on to describe who and what their new sovereign is, true God and true man, the true image of the invisible God and at the same time the perfect exemplar of true humanity. This portion of St. Paul’s epistle was aptly chosen for this great feast of the Kingship of Christ. Also, it calls to our minds how blessed, how fortunate we are to be Christians, citizens of his kingdom on earth with a guarantee of perpetual citizenship in his heavenly kingdom. This will be so only if we do the little he asks of us while here on earth.
Today is for all Christians a national day. Today, let us raise our Christian flag—the crucifix—aloft, and salute it with fervor and a promise of fervent loyalty. My King has suffered for me. For his sake, I am ready to suffer any trial that comes my way. If needs be, I am prepared to die for him. If he does not ask that supreme sacrifice, I am assuredly ready to live a life of faith, hope and sincere love for him, and of gratitude to him. Honor, glory and thanks forever to Christ our King!
The Gospel is Luke 23:35-43, describing the death of Jesus on the cross. All four Evangelists tell us that when Jesus was crucified on Calvary there was an inscription written on the upper arm of the cross which said that he was “King of the Jews.” To the disgust of the Jewish leaders he insisted on putting the title of the crucified criminal, “King of the Jews,” over his cross. In doing this, Pilate was proclaiming to the world, that these vengeful leaders of the people had condemned the messianic King, for whom they bad been waiting for centuries, to the shameful death of the cross. He was doing even more. He was proclaiming that the innocent one who hung on that cross was the “King of Kings” the King of this world and of the next.
Today let us renew our loyalty to Christ our King. We are privileged and proud to be his subjects. As members of his Church on earth we are as yet in the preparatory stage of that kingdom. If we do the little that he asks of us, during this period of preparation, we are assured of being full citizens in his eternal kingdom of happiness and peace.
Christ the King as Represented in the Liturgy
The liturgy is an album in which every epoch of Church history immortalizes itself. Therein, accordingly, can be found the various pictures of Christ beloved during succeeding centuries. In its pages we see pictures of Jesus suffering and in agony; we see pictures of His Sacred Heart; yet these pictures are not proper to the nature of the liturgy as such; they resemble baroque altars in a gothic church. Classic liturgy knows but one Christ: the King, radiant, majestic, and divine.
With an ever-growing desire, all Advent awaits the “coming King”; in the chants of the breviary we find repeated again and again the two expressions “King” and “is coming.” On Christmas the Church would greet, not the Child of Bethlehem, but the Rex Pacificus — “the King of peace gloriously reigning.” Within a fortnight, there follows a feast which belongs to the greatest of the feasts of the Church year — the Epiphany. As in ancient times oriental monarchs visited their principalities (theophany), so the divine King appears in His city, the Church; from its sacred precincts He casts His glance over all the world….On the final feast of the Christmas cycle, the Presentation in the Temple, holy Church meets her royal Bridegroom with virginal love: “Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ your King!” The burden of the Christmas cycle may be summed up in these words: Christ the King establishes His Kingdom of light upon earth!
If we now consider the Easter cycle, the luster of Christ’s royal dignity is indeed somewhat veiled by His sufferings; nevertheless, it is not the suffering Jesus who is present to the eyes of the Church as much as Christ the royal Hero and Warrior who upon the battlefield of Golgotha struggles with the mighty and dies in triumph. Even during Lent and Passiontide the Church acclaims her King. The act of homage on Palm Sunday is intensely stirring; singing psalms in festal procession we accompany our Savior singing: Gloria, laus et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe, “Glory, praise and honor be to Thee, Christ, O King!” It is true that on Good Friday the Church meditates upon the Man of Sorrows in agony upon the Cross, but at the same time, and perhaps more so, she beholds Him as King upon a royal throne. The hymn Vexilla Regis, “The royal banners forward go,” is the more perfect expression of the spirit from which the Good Friday liturgy has arisen. Also characteristic is the verse from Psalm 95, Dicite in gentibus quia Dominus regnavit, to which the early Christians always added, a ligno, “Proclaim among the Gentiles: the Lord reigns from upon the tree of the Cross!” During Paschal time the Church is so occupied with her glorified Savior and Conqueror that kingship references become rarer; nevertheless, toward the end of the season we celebrate our King’s triumph after completing the work of redemption, His royal enthronement on Ascension Thursday.
Neither in the time after Pentecost is the picture of Christ as King wholly absent from the liturgy. Corpus Christi is a royal festival: “Christ the King who rules the nations, come, let us adore” (Invit.). In the Greek Church the feast of the Transfiguration is the principal solemnity in honor of Christ’s kingship, Summum Regem gloriae Christum adoremus (Invit.). Finally at the sunset of the ecclesiastical year, the Church awaits with burning desire the return of the King of Majesty.
We will overlook further considerations in favor of a glance at the daily Offices. How often do we not begin Matins with an act of royal homage: “The King of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins — come, let us adore” (Invit.). Lauds is often introduced with Dominus regnavit, “The Lord is King”. Christ as King is also a first consideration at the threshold of each day; for morning after morning we renew our oath of fidelity at Prime: “To the King of ages be honor and glory.” Every oration is concluded through our Mediator Christ Jesus “who lives and reigns forever.” Yes, age-old liturgy beholds Christ reigning as King in His basilica (etym.: “the king’s house”), upon the altar as His throne.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch