Sunday, the last Sunday in October, is the original feast of Christ the King on the date established by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas Primas. The traditional liturgy of the Church maintains this original date while the ordinary-form liturgy celebrates the feast on the last Sunday of the Church year.
Pope Pius XI: Therefore by Our Apostolic Authority We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October—the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. Pius XI’s intention, as can is to emphasize the glory of Christ as fulfillment of His earthly mission, a glory and mission visible and perpetuated in history by the saints.
Hence the feast falls shortly before the Feast of All Saints, to emphasize that what Christ inaugurated in His own person before ascending in glory, the saints then make present and carry further in human society, culture, and nations. It is a feast primarily about celebrating Christ’s ongoing kingship over all reality, including this present world, where the Church must fight for the recognition of His rights, the actual extension of His dominion to all domains, individual and social.
Indeed, there's also the obvious fact, unmentioned in Quas Primas but surely in everyone's mind, that the last Sunday in October had, for centuries, been celebrated as Reformation Sunday. A Catholic counter-feast, reminding the world not only of the comprehensive Kingship of Jesus Christ—so often denied socially and culturally by various teachings of Protestantism—but also of the worldwide kingly authority of His Church, would certainly be a reasonable application of the principle lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of worship is the law of belief.
In the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council, its place was changed to the last Sunday of the Church year—that is, so that one week later would fall before the first Sunday of Advent. This new position emphasizes the final-judgment-dimension of Christ’s kingship: the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, though begun in time, is here present “as in a mystery” (as Lumen Gentium phrases it) and in a “crucified” way. This Kingdom will be perfected and fully manifested only at the end of time, with the Second Coming. Hence in the new calendar the feast comes at the very end of the Church’s year, as the summation of the whole of salvation history and the symbol of what we hope for: expectantes … adventum salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi, awaiting….the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, as the liturgy in the Ordinary Form proclaims after the Lord’s Prayer. Though both placements are defensible, it would seem that Pius XI’s intention, consistent with the encyclical as a whole, was more to insist on the rights of Jesus Christ here and now, and the corresponding duties of men and nations on earth. As Pius XI explains:
The empire of our Redeemer embraces all. 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. … If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. … 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. (Quas Primas 18-19) Vatican Council II teaches: The Sacred Council...leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies towards the true religion and the one Church of Christ. Dignitatis Humanae #1
There is intense warfare between the Kingdom of Christ and the rebellion of Satan. This is the key meditation and exercise in St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Satan makes his presence universal either directly or through his demons or through perverse human beings so that no place, state in life, no single person is overlooked. Consider this text from the Book of Revelation: Enraged at her (the Woman’s, see here the Virgin Mary’s) escape the dragon went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep God’s commandments and give witness to Jesus. Revelation 12 The tactics of Satan are to tempt people by their cravings for riches, so that they will be carried away by earthly honors and glory and overweening pride: human beings make themselves gods. Christ the King attracts His followers to spiritual poverty and some for actual poverty but overall a detachment from things and riches; He asks the willingness to undergo the world’s contempt for His sake and for humility: I bend my knee to and acknowledge only the Lord as the One God and His Son and I respect and love whatever is of God in my neighbor.
This warfare has often been bloody when perverse governments and rulers have sought to destroy the Church and cancel the Name of Christ. So called “radical leftists” are burning Catholic Churches in Chile. Radical Islamists attack and murder Christians all over the world. Churches are attacked and defaced and Christians mocked in our own country by people, power-elites, Hollywood, promoting and serving a political religion as a substitute for and opponent to the true religion of Christ. Some serve the political religion which promotes abortion, euthanasia, and the destruction of the family, claiming to be Catholic, devout no less!
The Cristeros- Rebellion was the armed- resistance to a godless and perverse government in Mexico at the beginning of the last century which sought to eliminate the Church from Mexico. These bloody attacks would continue later in Spain by the communists-socialists, the Nazi regime, Fascist regimes, Freemasons, and countless other enemies in history, resisted by legions of martyr-saints fighting and witnessing to the social reign of Jesus Christ the King. Fr. Vittorio Genovesi S. J., the author of the hymn for Vespers of the feast day, poetically points to the battlefield involving Christ the King:
The wicked mob cries out, “We do not want Christ to reign!”; we, rejoicing, say You are the Supreme King of all
O Christ, Peace-giving Prince, make subject rebel-minds, and, by Your love, gather into one sheepfold those who have gone astray.
For this you hung upon the bloody tree with arms outstretched and showed Your Heart burning with fire torn open by the cruel spear point
For this You are hidden on altars beneath the appearance of wine and a feast, pouring out salvation upon Your children from Your transfixed Heart.
May the presidents of nations render You public honor! May masters and judges adore You! May laws and arts show forth Your splendor
May the insignia of kings shine forth as subordinate and dedicated to You. Make also our country and the homes of its citizens subject to Your gentle scepter Glory be to You, Jesus, who govern the authorities of the world with the Father and the life-giving Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.BACK TO LIST