Victor Rex

Victor Rex

Christ the King

At various celebrations throughout the year, the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ is referred to in the liturgy. To name just a few: On the very day of His annunciation, the archangel told our Lady that He would reign over the House of David forever and of His kingdom there would be no end. On the feast of the Epiphany, the Magi offer the newborn Babe royal gifts, thus paying homage to his lordship. At Easter, we sing in the sequence of the “Victor Rex”, the Victorious King who has conquered death and lives forever. At the feast of All Saints, next week, we will contemplate the 24 elders seated around the throne of God, prostrating themselves and taking off their thrones in adoration before the Lamb, enthroned as eternal King.

But even though the kingship of the Lord has ever been at the heart of our faith, it has come to be strongly contested, or even rejected by the world. It was placed before the spectacle of a world that had officially revolted against the sovereign rule of Christ that Pope Pius XI decided to make a public act of homage to the eternal saviour by instituting this feast 95 years ago, during the holy year of 1925. This means that we will soon be celebrating the centenary of this feast which has become dear to all true Catholics, and has taken on a particular importance for us Australians, due to the Christus Rex Pilgrimage which takes place each year at this time in Victoria. Even though it has not been possible to hold the pilgrimage this year, there are around the country many who, in spirit, are walking the way from Ballarat to Bendigo. With them, we monks of Notre Dame Priory join in spirit.

When Pius XI instituted this feast, he had a very specific goal in mind. It was not just to profess the faith of the Church concerning the eternal reign of Jesus; it was not only to remind people that at the end of time He will come to judge and will then be acknowledged as King of the universe. It was first and foremost to proclaim the social kingship of Christ and the duties, not only of individuals, but also of nations towards Him. The encyclical Quas Primas by which the feast was instituted, makes it clear that the kingship of Christ can be contested by no one who acknowledges Him to be the Son of God. Indeed, by the very fact of His being hypostatically united with the eternal Person of the word, Jesus obtains, at the first moment of His conception, complete and absolute power over all things.

He is king of hearts, yes indeed. And for sure, no man has been or ever will be loved as Jesus Christ has been and forever will be loved by millions of hearts who owe to Him their total and complete allegiance, their eternal gratitude. He is king of minds, in that every human intellect has the duty to seek Him and His truth and cleave to it with all the strength of his being. He is king of wills, in that everyone must seek to accomplish His sovereign will in their lives.

But Christ Our Lord is not only king of individuals. He is not entitled only to the devotion of each person taken singly. By the very fact that He has been established as Son of God through the hypostatic union, Christ is lord and king of the world. That means He is king of each and every society, of each and every sovereign state, of each and every region, county, township and family. That means that He has an absolute right to be acknowledged as such by each individual, each state, each region, each township, each family.

Such is the Catholic teaching on the kingship of Jesus Christ, and it is admirably expressed, in a condensed form, in the collect for this extraordinarily beautiful Mass, composed for the institution of the feast nearly a century ago.

Almighty everlasting God, who in Thy beloved Son, King of the whole universe, has willed to restore all things anew; grant in Thy mercy that all the families of nations, rent asunder by the wound of sin, may be subjected to His most gentle rule.

Through Christ, God has willed to restore all things – Instaurare omnia, according to the expression of St Paul in the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians, text which became the motto of Pope St Pius X. To restore all things under one head, that is Christ. That is why Christ came. He is the one head of the human race, the one Lord whom all must acknowledge and obey. If all do so, they find themselves in a society that is restored, that is brought together in unity and harmony. The oration then points out that it is due to its failure to do precisely that, that there is division. The nations are rent asunder, they are torn apart, from each other and within themselves, because they do not submit, as a whole, to the sovereignty of Christ.

Sin is what dislocates individuals. A person who is abandoned to sin lives a sort of spiritual schizophrenia, constantly drawn by nature and grace to the sweet rule of Christ, but always running away and seeking to break the bonds which unite her to her only hope of peace. Sin is what dislocates families. A family in which the members are living in sin, runs the risk of becoming divided, for only the truth and virtue can unite. Sin is what dislocates nations. A nation in which the pursuit of virtue is not taken seriously, in which vice is not only left a free hand, but is sanctioned by law, is torn asunder, and even if it maintains for a time a certain cohesion, that superficial union will one day be dissolved, leaving it in a state of anarchy.

But when people actually do turn away from evil and do live good lives, they find themselves in the kingdom of Christ, whose yoke is sweet, and whose burden is light, whereas the yoke of sin and of error is bitter, awful, corruptive, unsettling. As Our Lord said in the sermon on the Mount: No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Mt 6:24). Either you hate Satan and all evil and you love Christ, or you bear the oppressive burden of Satan, and you scorn Christ. Satan is a cruel master, and those who turn to him will come to grief in this life before their eternal woe in the next. Satan lets on that by following him you can do what you want, whereas in reality you do what he wants, and what he wants is to destroy you by enticing you to follow the same path he followed, that of self-centredness, that dead-end road that leads to darkness, death and damnation.

Christ the King challenges us. He calls us to come out of ourselves, to open up to the grace from on high, to all that is good and pure and holy. His way is narrow, but only at the start, for if we persevere, the soul becomes enlarged and runs with delight in the way of the commandments. Whereas Satan and the world advertise an easy path, it is easy only at the start, for very quickly the heart becomes constricted and suffocates, unable to breathe the pure air of love, and is asphyxiated in its own tiny little world.

Human beings are by nature weak and dependent; they rely on someone else. Either one serves Jesus Christ the King and finds in Him the true freedom of truth and virtue, or one serves oneself and the forces of evil, and finds oneself a slave. Only the truth sets free.

On this blessed feast, let each of us renew the consecration of ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Our Sweet Saviour. Let us give ourselves without reserve to working for the spread of His Kingdom on earth. Let us also turn on this day to the Queen of Heaven, Mary Immaculate, confident that the more we act in and through Her, the more effective we will be acting as disciples of her Son.

Long live Christ the King!

All for Jesus through Mary. Amen.

Christ King
Christ King