Sunday, October 26, 2014

Feast of Christ the King

The Feast of Christ the King

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." Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society.
When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience.
Pius XI, Quas primas.
     The Feast of Christ the King is the Last Sunday of the year, in the Calendar of the Novus Ordo Missæ. But it falls on the Last Sunday of October in the calendar of the 1962 Missal (and in those Missals before it, and after the establishment of the Feast in 1925)

     Why the difference? The first is practical. When the feast was established in 1925 it was in the context of a pre-existing calendar. Further, the calendar reform - the first major liturgical reform - of Pius X was largely due to feasts eclipsing the liturgies for Sunday. Sacred Heart was the Third Sunday of July, and the Name of Mary the third of September. Even after this reform, several Sundays remained eclipsed. The First Sunday after Pentecost had, even before Trent, been eclipsed by the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, with the Sunday Mass retained only through commemoration.

     But the Trinity was an old established feast. For the most part, the Church showed solicitude in preserving the ancient liturgies of the Sundays. The propers and readings date back from before we even have reliable records. The only change being a shifting, by one Sunday, of the Epistles. The order was kept. Further, the last Sunday of the year has a special significance, and it established liturgy, with its eschatological focus had to be retained. With the new Missal, a new calendar was devised. Since the ancient patrimony was already discarded, one was free to place certain Sundays as special feasts without prejudicing any other liturgy. But is this the only reason? Not long before Christ the King was established but after the calendar reform, Holy Family was, on the first Sunday after Epiphany. The proper Mass for that Sunday was kept only on ferial days.

     The Encyclical quoted was the very same that established the Feast of Christ the King. While we tend to think of His Kingship as something to be established in the escaton, in reality the Church speaks of Him as king, here and now. And His reign demands the recognition of not just individuals, but of societies. By placing the feast in October, it avoids associating it with being just a reality to be obtained at the end of the world. But why not in May or August or any other month? Pius XI answers:

The last Sunday of October seemed the most convenient of all for this purpose, because it is at the end of the liturgical year, and thus the feast of the Kingship of Christ sets the crowning glory upon the mysteries of the life of Christ already commemorated during the year, and, before celebrating the triumph of all the Saints, we proclaim and extol the glory of him who triumphs in all the Saints and in all the Elect. Make it your duty and your task, Venerable Brethren, to see that sermons are preached to the people in every parish to teach them the meaning and the importance of this feast, that they may so order their lives as to be worthy of faithful and obedient subjects of the Divine King.

         This seems at first to give weight only to my practical explanation. The pope wanted it at the end of the year. He gives also another reason, the proximity to all Saints. But it is clear, since it is prior to celebrating the Saints, that the crowning glory of the other mysteries of Christ's life is not something only had at the very end of time, but in the end of His earthly mission. The Preface for the Mass states:

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus: Qui unigenitum Filium tuum Domine nostrum Jesum Christum, Sacerdotem aeternum et universorum Regem, oleo exsultationis unxisti: ut seipsum in ara crucis, hostiam immaculatam et pacificam offerens, redemptionis humanae sacramenta perageret: et suo subjectis imperio omnibus creaturis, aeternum et universale regnum, immensae tuae traderet Majestati: regnum veritatis et vitae; regnum sanctitatis et gratiae; regnum justitiae, amoris et pacis. Ed ideo cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia coelestis exercitus hymnum gloriae tuae canimus, sine fine dicentes:

It it meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: Who didst anoint, with the oil of gladness, Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the eternal Priest and King of the universe; that by offering Himself a spotless Victim and peace-offering on the altar of the Cross, He might accomplish the mysteries of man's redemption, and that having subjected all creatures to His dominion, He might present to Thine infinite Majesty an everlasting and universal Kingdom; a kingdom of truth and life; and kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love, and peace. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying:
     His "subjecting all creatures" happened in His act of redemption. So His rule is a culmination already present. Is this to say that the new Missal seeks to deny His reign here and now by moving the feast? Not at all. As is clear from the opening quote, Pius XI was concerned with that reign. But it is also true that there is an eschatological significance to His Kingship (Rev. 11:15). It will not be manifested, nor His kingdom complete until the end. That kingdom consists of the elect, who participate in eternal glory and the number of the elect will not be full until the end time. Furthermore, Scripture tells us that every knee shall bow, whether in heaven, or earth or under the earth. Many, while alive, do not bow that knee, recognizing His kingship. But all will in the end, whether in heaven or "under the earth." It is there, in the General Judgment, that Christ's kingship will be seen clearly by all and fully manifested. Then will it be sung: 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.What differs, then, is which aspect of His kingship is emphasized.

   On an ending note, Pius XI also ordered, to be said on this day, the act of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is often not done in parishes I have been at, but should still be done as something even more needed today.

Iesu dulcissime, cuius effusa in homines caritas, tanta oblivione, negligentia, comtemptione, ingratissime rependitur, en nos, ante altaria tua provoluti, tam nefariam hominum socordiam iniuriasque, quibus undique amantissimum Cor tuum afficitur, peculiari honore resarcire contendimus. 

Attamen, memores tantae nos quoque indignitatis non expertes aliquando fuisse, indeque vehementissimo dolore commoti, tuam in primis misericordiam nobis imploramus, paratis, voluntaria expiatione compensare flagitia non modo quae ipsi patravimus, sed etiam illorum, qui, longe a salutis via aberrantes, vel te pastorem ducemque sectari detrectant, in sua infidelitate obstinati, vel baptismatis promissa conculcantes, suavissimum tuae legis iugum excusserunt.

Quae deploranda crimina, cum universa expiare contendimus, tum nobis singula resarcienda proponimus: vitae cultusque immodestiam atque turpitudines, tot corruptelae pedicas innocentium animis instructas, dies festos violatos, exsecranda in te tuosque Sanctos iactata maledicta atque in tuum Vicarium ordinemque sacerdotalem convicia irrogata, ipsum denique amoris divini Sacramentum, vel neglectum vel horrendis sacrilegiis profanatum, publica postremo nationum delicta, quae Ecclesiae a te institutae iuribus magisterioque reluctantur. 

Quae utinam crimina sanguine ipsi nostro eluere possemus! Interea ad violatum divinum honorem resarciendum, quam Tu olim Patri in Cruce satisfactionem obtulisti quamque quotidie in Altaribus renovare pergis, hanc eamdem nos tibi praestamus, cum Virginis Matris, omnium Sanctorum, piorum quoque fidelium expiationibus coniunctam, ex animo spondentes, cum praeterita nostra aliorumque peccata ac tanti amoris incuriam firma fide, candidis vitae moribus, perfecta legis evangelicae, caritatis potissimum, observantia, quantum in nobis erit, gratia tua favente, nos esse compensaturos, tum iniurias tibi inferendas pro viribus prohibituros, et quam plurimos potuerimus ad tui sequelam convocaturos. Excipias, quaesumus, benignissime Iesu, beata Virgine Maria Reparatrice intercedente, voluntarium huius expiationis obsequium nosque in officio tuique servito fidissimos ad mortem usque velis, magno illo perseverantiae munere, continere, ut ad illam tandem patriam perveniamus omnes, ubi Tu cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen. 

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