In the Novus Ordo calendar, the Solemnity of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, just before Advent begins. In the traditional calendar the feast falls on the last Sunday of October.
Christ the King was established in 1925 by Pius XI, as Pius Parsch says in The Church’s Year of Grace, to “renew in the minds and hearts of the faithful the ancient concept of Christ as divine King who, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, will return at the end of time in might and majesty”. Although the older and newer editions of the Missale Romanum provide different emphases for the feast, both look to the Last Things, the definitive inauguration of Christ’s Kingdom.
Each year the Holy Church presents the history of salvation, from Creation to the Lord’s Coming (both His First and also His Final Coming). At this time of year, as we head toward the summation of our liturgical year, as we of the Northern Hemisphere slide into the darkness of autumn and winter, in our liturgical worship we more and more consider the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.
Christ the King reminds us that the Lord Jesus will indeed come again. Our Lord will not come as a “mate” with a pint or even as a “gentle shepherd” with fluffy lambs to hug. He will come as King and Judge. The Dies Irae, prayed at Requiem Masses, identifies Christ as “King of Fearful Majesty” and “Just Judge”. He is benign King and merciful Judge to those who submit themselves to His rule in this life.
Speaking of His coming, what will it be like, if not with pints and lambs? Consider this sobering description in 2 Peter 3:10-12 (Douay-Rheims):
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence and the elements shall be melted with heat and the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness? Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat?
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