Lost in the shorter, busier, cooler days of late November is a major Christian observance called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
Better known by its Protestant name Christ the King Sunday, this liturgical innovation of relatively recent vintage poses profound and countercultural theological implications for Christians.
In an era when religion can be a nominal identity marker worn lightly or a lifestyle choice based on aesthetic, convenience and intensity preferences that take on consumeristic character, Christ the King challenges all believers.
Is Christ king? If so, what does that require of the Christian? How should it shape individuals’ faith and devotion? What does it demand for the church and its relationship to the temporal order?
If Christ is not king, what’s the point of all this anyway?
Pope Pius XI, in his 1925 papal encyclical Quas Primas, says that the kingship of Christ is a bulwark against the “manifold evils in the world.” Pius, who instituted the feast day of Christ the King, reminded Christians reeling from the aftermath of World War I that the central theme of Jesus’ teaching was the kingdom of God.
For Jesus’ followers, this is what it’s all about.
In a fallen world corrupted by sin and lust for power, Christ proclaims a kingdom based on love and mercy. Grace and truth flow freely, beyond the goodness of what any earthly kingdom can provide.
Situated at the end of the liturgical year, Christ the King Sunday is a joyful exclamation point. It reminds Christians of the joys of our greater citizenship just as they prepare in the holy season of Advent to make way for the newborn King.
In his encyclical, Pius points to the familiar words of the prophet Isaiah: “For a child is born to us and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God the mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace. He shall sit upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Jacob Lupfer