The New Year is upon us. The Liturgical Year, that is. Have you thought about how you’ll celebrate?

This Sunday the Catholic Church marks the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, Christ the King. It’s the culmination of the Liturgical Year and always takes place on the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent.

Instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the Solemnity of Christ the King gives honor to Jesus as lord over all creation. The custom dates back to medieval times when “King” was a commonly used and powerful metaphor. The Kingdom of God is a central theme in Jesus’ teachings. In fact, the word kingdom is the most frequently used of all the words in the four Gospels.

Christ the King marks the kingship of our Lord, but it also marks the end of the Liturgical Year. The new liturgical year begins next Sunday – the First Sunday of Advent.

Just as we take stock of the past year on December 31 because it’s the end of the calendar year, we should take stock of the past year on the feast of Christ the King because it’s the end of our spiritual year, so to speak.

It’s an opportunity to view the past twelve months from the perspective of how we spent our spiritual, or liturgical, year.

  • What did you do that was successful?
  • What did you do that wasn’t successful?
  • What events, celebrations, or devotions benefitted you the most? Why?
  • Which benefitted you the least? Why?
  • What was your spiritual attitude like this past year?
  • How can you change/improve it in the coming year?
  • What has your relationship with Christ been during the past year?
  • What direction would you like it to take this coming year?
  • How have you grown spiritually this past year?
  • What kept you from growing more, and how can you remove/work with those obstacles?

These are just some examples of the kinds of questions we can – and should – be asking ourselves.

It’s no accident that the Liturgical Year ends with Christ the King and begins with Advent. It’s the perfect fit.

This Sunday, we humble ourselves, admitting our nothingness in light of the glory and majesty of the King. We put ourselves aside and look to the all-important Son of the Living God, pledging our allegiance to him alone. Hopefully, in the process we’ll be able to honor him with gifts befitting a king – our striving toward holiness and faithfulness to his will.

Next Sunday, we quiet ourselves and become distanced from the world around us. We look inward, assessing our preparedness to welcome the King as Savior at Christmas. Whereas Christ the King is focused on giving glory and recognizing his presence to us in the here and now, the First Sunday of Advent is focused on the anticipation of promise of his coming into our hearts on Christmas Eve and his Second Coming at the end of the world. This begins a time of waiting and longing.

Here’s what the Congregation for Divine Worship says about Advent:

“Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.”

I love that last part – “a period for devout and joyful expectation.”

It’s the perfect way to end the old year and bring in the new, in terms of the Liturgical Year. True, when we look back on our spiritual lives during the past twelve months, we may not like all that we see.

I know I won’t.

Thanks be to God (literally) we can call upon the King’s mercy and forgiveness for our failures and his grace to amend our ways and do better in the future.

So, tell me. The New (Liturgical) Year is almost here. How will you celebrate it?