In 1925 Pius XI issued an encyclical, Quas primas, by which he established the annual feast of Christ the King to be celebrated at the end of October, the month favoured by atheistic communists. With the calendrical changes after Vatican II, it was transferred to the final Sunday of the liturgical year.
Pope Pius emphasised Christ’s Kingship here and now over all the nations of this world. The post-conciliar feast, or solemnity, stresses His eschatological reign, at the end of things. Of course both dimensions are true. Christ is the King, here and now and forevermore of all things that ever have been and ever will be, and His own Heart, as the litany resounds, is the King and Centre of all hearts.
What a mystery of God’s love it is that He allows His creatures, made in His image and likeness, made to know, to will, to love, to have eternal life and a sharing of His glory, can by their free will depose the King and place some lesser thing, a created good, upon throne of their hearts. God allows His creatures to eject Him from their interior hearts and from their external relationships, intimate and extended, familial, societal and global.
If we place anything or anyone other than God upon the throne of our hearts, we cannot be saved. If families, societies and nations reject God and squelch the reality of His present and future reign, there can be no peace, no justice among us, as imperfect as those inevitably are in this earthly vale.
Speaking of no peace, in Quas primas 24 Pope Pius described the discord which results when Christ is not recognised and loved as King: “private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness … ; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society, in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin.”
With this feast Pius offered a remedy for our “slowness and timidity”. Now, as then, we must “fight courageously under the banner of Christ the King” and “fired with apostolic zeal win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and valiantly defend His rights.”
This week we shall round out another liturgical year. It is a good time to take stock. What or who truly reigns upon your heart’s throne?