Stephanie A. Mann is the author of Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, available from Scepter Publishers. She resides in Wichita, Kansas and blogs at www.supremacyandsurvival.blogspot.com.
My husband and I attend Sunday Mass in both forms of the Roman Rite: the Ordinary Form in the vernacular and the Extraordinary Form in Latin. Because we have this opportunity, at least partially because of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Summorum Pontificum, and mostly because of the generosity of several priests, we will celebrate the feast of Christ the King twice this fall—once before Election Day and once after. Thus, no matter who is elected President, Christ will be King.
1925: Pope Pius XI
On the Extraordinary Form calendar the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated on the last Sunday of October. Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical “Quas Primas” on December 11, 1925 to establish the feast and provided this reason for its scheduling:
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.
The propers of the Mass (Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, Gospel, Offertory, Secret, Communion Verse, and Post Communion prayer) all emphasize what Pope Pius XI stated as truths about Jesus Christ’s Kingship. He reigns as the maker and enforcer of Law; His Kingdom, as he told Pilate, is not of this world: it is “spiritual and concerned with spiritual things”; nevertheless, He is King of all the nations on earth, whether their citizens are Catholic or not, baptized or not, and He reigns as the King of peace.
Pope Pius XI wanted this feast to remind the laity of our role in making sure that God’s authority is not forgotten even in an officially or predominantly secular society, whether the government is monarchial or democratic: “...if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.” In 1925, Pius saw the anti-religious trends that threatened peace, the family, and charity because of nationalism, greed, and the desire for comfort above all. He hoped that an annual festival dedicated to the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ would “hasten the return of society to our loving Savior”, that nations would acknowledge and defend religious liberty, and that all would recognize Jesus as the One Savior of the world, respecting His authority.
1970: Pope Paul VI
In 1970, with the revision of the Roman Calendar, the Feast was moved to the Last Sunday in Ordinary Time and its title changed to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Pope Paul VI wanted to emphasize the eschatological aspect of the feast, that at the end of world, Jesus will return “in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end” (Nicene Creed). There’s a clear transition to the Advent season and the three-fold coming of Jesus: as an infant at Christmas in the past; here and now in Word and Sacrament; and in the future as King and Judge.
There is another distinction between the Extraordinary and Ordinary Form celebrations of this feast. The readings for the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ are the same each year in the Extraordinary Form (Colossians 1:12-20 and John 18:33-37 are the Epistle and the Gospel). The readings for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe are different in the cycle of readings for Years A, B, and C.
This liturgical year (2015-2016) is Year C and the Solemnity is celebrated on November 20, the latest date it can occur on as movable feast in relation to the fixed feast of Christmas on December 25. The readings may be found on the USCCB website here.
October 30—November 8—November 20
When Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio to encourage greater freedom in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite, he hoped (as the USCCB website notes) “that the two forms of the one Roman Rite may provide a mutual spiritual enrichment for the faithful and promote the Communion of the whole Church as an expression of unity in diversity.”
In this election year, I can see how my participation in the festival of Christ the King before and after Election Day, Nov. 8, fulfills that hope.
As I prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Oct. 30 I am deciding how to cast my vote in accord with a properly formed conscience. I want my voting at the national, state, and local level to further the cause of Christ the King on earth, here and now: to uphold the causes of the dignity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.
After Election Day on Nov. 8, I’ll prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on Nov. 20. In a sense, it won’t matter who the President of the United States is, because Christ is King. He rules in a way that no secular official can and I will continue to uphold those great causes.
Viva Cristo Rey!