Sunday, November 24 marks the end of the Liturgical Year for the Catholic Church. It’s the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, on which day we celebrate Christ’s royalty and his reign over all of creation. Next Sunday, December 1, we begin Advent, which also is the beginning of the new Liturgical Year.
The Solemnity of Christ the King was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in an effort to counter the growing secularism that threatened to make society devoid of God.
In his encyclical Quas primas (On the Feast of Christ the King), Pope Pius XI wrote, “If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected.”
Folks go to great lengths at the end of the calendar year to asses the past year and prepare for the year ahead. We sing, “Auld Lang Syne” and revel in happy memories of the last twelve months. Then we make our “New Year’s resolutions” and swear we’ll stick to them so that we can become better people. We pledge to do certain things to improve ourselves or give up others that are obstacles to our progress.
What more appropriate time for self-evaluation than at the end of the Liturgical Year? We might ask ourselves how Christ has been King over our lives these past twelve months, and how receptive we were to his divine royalty. Was he truly King over our hearts? Were we genuinely subject to him, or were we pawns of our own selfishness?
It’s a good time, too, to look ahead to the coming year. How do we want to grow in our faith and devotion to the King of the Universe? What practical means can we employ by which we can whole-heartedly surrender ourselves to Christ? How can we honor Christ as King – of the universe, of our world, our country, our state, our community, our family, and of our hearts?
In closing this Liturgical Year and preparing for the next, you might find it helpful to read Pope Pius’s encyclical on Christ the King. (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas_en.html) It’s packed with fodder for prayer and meditation!
You also might want to kick-start this coming Liturgical Year by taking advantage of the partial plenary indulgence offered on this feast:
A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before you. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your Most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many, too, despising your precepts, have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and the unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give tranquility of order to all nations; make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.
Prayer Source: Enchiridion of Indulgences , June 29, 1968
It’s New Year’s Eve, so to speak, so let’s celebrate by looking back, looking ahead, and commemorating this glorious feast. Christ is King, now and forever.