A stained-glass window depicting "Christ the King and Lord of the Universe" is seen in the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, Del.. CNS photo/Chaz Muth

Celebrating Christ’s Solemnity is downright exciting

  • November 16, 2022

It’s that time of year again. The last Sunday of the liturgical year is a great and glorious day. It used to be known simply as “The Feast of Christ the King,” but has now been expanded to “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Yes, please! 

It’s downright exciting to celebrate God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence — and know at the same time that He dwells in our hearts. If we don’t remind ourselves of the almightiness and awesomeness of our God (more than once a year), we might be tempted to seek this expansiveness in some other religion or spirituality such as Eastern mysticism that promises “oneness with the cosmos.”

The rich traditions of the Eastern Churches have never lost sight of the Creator and His vast Creation in their liturgies, sacred art and catechesis. Unfortunately, we in the Christian West have become a bit myopic, “specialistic,” even doubtful of the big picture, often preferring to let science alone tell the story of the space-time-matter-energy continuum. Or worse.

Fuzzy  theological thinking can devolve into believing the cosmos is Christ, God is His Creation and is outside of it at the same time or, à la trends like the “Pray, Eat, Love” juggernaut, that we are divine. There is nothing new under the sun, and these ideas have names, respectively: “pantheism,” “panentheism” and “Hinduism.” People are free to believe what they wish, but these beliefs are not Christian, nor can they be incorporated into Christianity.

So, how should Catholics approach nature, Creation, spirituality, meditation? As Catholics! We do believe that God is speaking to us through His Creation, what the Fathers of the Church called “the first book of revelation,” and by following the Divine Order, revealed to us in Scripture and the magisterial teaching of the Church, we will be doing God’s holy will, obeying God’s laws and thus will automatically be living in harmony with Creation. Of course, we can go further and educate ourselves about more natural ways of living, eating and being healthy — but the spirituality behind it always comes from the Blessed Trinity and Holy Mother Church.

Now, about the Kingship of Jesus. Canada does not have a problem with the concept of “royalty” as other countries do (looking at you, southern neighbours). Canada has a King, an earthly one, and at present, 42 other sovereign states have monarchs as well.

As Christendom recedes and cedes ground everywhere, Jesus remains Lord of All, the Lord of History. Don’t believe lies that we are a “post-Christian” world (there’s nothing beyond Jesus Christ), that religions divide humanity (divisions aren’t always bad or bellicose), and that we need a One World Religion to unite us and bring about world peace (we already have a one world religion called the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church that is, and always has been, open to all, enabling James Joyce to say of the Catholic Church: “Here comes everybody!”)

The Feast of Christ the King is a relatively new addition to the Western liturgical calendar, having been instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 when he released his encyclical, Quas Primas, on the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus. Quas Primas helps solve the conundrum of living in a so-called “secular” society while Christ is our so-called “only Heavenly” King. How can God be routed from His own kingdom? When Pope John Paul II made Fr. Aron Jean-Marie Lustiger (a convert from Judaism) Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger asked him: “Are you just doing this because I’m Jewish?” John Paul II replied: “I’m making you Archbishop so you will restore Jesus Christ to His rightful place in French society.” Boom.

I thrill to anything to do with the majesty of God, especially hymns to Christ the King. Worship is natural to the human creature. Here are lines from my favourite hymn: “Son of God and yet our Brother / Let all men adore Him; / Son of Mary, our sweet Mother, / Let us bow before Him! / Christ who leads us, Christ who loves us / Christ our Ruler from His birth! / He shall triumph, He shall triumph — over all the Earth!”

Happy New (liturgical) Year!

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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