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The Reign of Christ the King

Americans live in a country that is so thoroughly steeped in the notions of democracy and who are under the illusion that it is the best form of government it may be rather difficult for anyone, even Catholics, to really be able to understand and accept the notion of the Kingship of Christ, but indeed He is a King and it is essential for Catholics to adore Him as such. 

We see his kingship first when at the arrival of the three Kings from the east he is given three gifts: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.  Now the Frankincense was given to Him to signify that He is God, the Myrrh to prepare for His death for the salvation of the whole world, and finally the Gold because He was King.  Because our Lord was in fact the rightful heir to the throne of Israel, in fact Joseph was then the rightful King as He was of the line of King David, and Herod was a usurper and collaborator with the occupying Romans.


His Kingship would not surface again until his entrance into Jerusalem nearly 33 years later on Palm Sunday, and then just a few days later His kingship would be most brutally mocked in the crowning of thorns, and it was just at this point in His Sacred Passion that He explains that indeed His Kingship is not merely an earthly Kingship but that He is King of the whole universe:

Pilate therefore went into the hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him: Art thou the king of the Jews?  Jesus answered: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me?  Pilate answered: Am I a Jew? Thy own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee up to me: what hast thou done?  Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice. (John 18:33-37)


One point of clarification here is that when our Lord says: “Thou sayest that I am a king”, He is using a Semitic or Hebraic idiom that would translate today as something to the effect of: “You said it.” That is to say indeed He is a king.


So if our Lord’s Kingship is “not of this world” does that mean that it doesn’t matter to us at all? Or at least not in our modern politics?  No, certainly not, in fact just a short while later our Lord will explain the relationship of His Kingship to that of human Kings on earth:


And he entered into the hall again, and he said to Jesus: Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.  Pilate therefore saith to him: Speakest thou not to me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?  Jesus answered: Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin.  (John 19:9-11)


So we see that all power in this world is derived from Christ, even if at times (or even very often) it is abused.  And so everything we do in our political lives we must always keep in mind Christ.


Now as to forms of government, as I said, we live in a country with a “democratic mania” of sorts where we want to vote on everything and think he ought to have a “choice” about anything and everything without regard for moral law or a notion of absolute truth.   To truly grasp an authentic Catholic political philosophy I would highly recommend De Regno, by Saint Thomas Aquinas which is his synthesis of Aristotle’s Politics and the Catholic faith.  And just consider this one passage from this work, which might be rather eye opening for some:


If an unjust government is carried on by one man alone, who seeks his own benefit from his rule and not the good of the multitude subject to him, such a ruler is called a tyrant—a word derived from strength—because he oppresses by might instead of ruling by justice. Thus among the ancients all powerful men were called tyrants. If an. unjust government is carried on, not by one but by several, and if they be few, it is called an oligarchy, that is, the rule of a few. This occurs when a few, who differ from the tyrant only by the fact that they are more than one, oppress the people by means of their wealth. If, finally, the bad government is carried on by the multitude, it is called a democracy, i.e. control by the populace, which comes about when the plebeian people by force of numbers oppress the rich. In this way the whole people will be as one tyrant.


In like manner we must divide just governments. If the government is administered by many, it is given the name common to all forms of government, viz. polity, as for instance when a group of warriors exercise dominion over a city or province. If it is administered by a few men of virtue, this kind of government is called an aristocracy, i.e. noble governance, or governance by noble men, who for this reason are called the Optimates. And if a just government is in the hands of one man alone, he is properly called a king. Wherefore the Lord says by the mouth of Ezekiel:” “My servant, David, shall be king over them and all of them shall have one shepherd.”



Having set forth these preliminary points we must now inquire what is better for a province or a city: whether to be ruled by one man or by many.


This question may be considered first from the viewpoint of the purpose of government. The aim of any ruler should be directed towards securing the welfare of that which he undertakes to rule. The duty of the pilot, for instance, is to preserve his ship amidst the perils of the sea. and to bring it unharmed to the port of safety. Now the welfare and safety of a multitude formed into a society lies in the preservation of its unity, which is called peace. If this is removed, the benefit of social life is lost and, moreover, the multitude in its disagreement becomes a burden to itself. The chief concern of the ruler of a multitude, therefore, is to procure the unity of peace. It is not even legitimate for him to deliberate whether he shall establish peace in the multitude subject to him, just as a physician does not deliberate whether he shall heal the sick man encharged to him, Footnote for no one should deliberate about an end which he is obliged to seek, but only about the means to attain that end. Wherefore the Apostle, having commended the unity of the faithful people, says: “Be ye careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” Thus, the more efficacious a. government is in keeping the unity of peace, the more useful it will be. For we call that more useful which leads more directly to the end. Now it is manifest that what is itself one can more efficaciously bring about unity than several—just as the most efficacious cause of heat is that which is by its nature hot. Therefore the rule of one man is more useful than the rule of many.


Now, even after having seen that monarchy is the best form of government let us look still back at the more broad and overarching guide for our political life so that whatever form of Government you may prefer or feel is the best you must then apply this principle to it and this is that Christ is King and must be the beginning and end of all political life. 


Pope Pius XI, who established this Feast in the Liturgical Calendar of the Universal Church, gives in the same encyclical, Quas Primas, a very clear explanation of the lens through which we must consider all politics:


When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord’s regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen’s duty of obedience. It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their masters, warns them to give obedience to them not as men, but as the vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should serve their fellow-men. “You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men.”[I Cor. 7:23] If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished. (#19)


So when we consider each political candidate and indeed every government we must first consider whether or not they are working toward the establishment of the Social Reign of Christ the King where all in the society accept Christ as their King and act accordingly.


Not many years after Quas Primas the successor of Pius XI the great Ven. Pope Pius XII had some things to say about the importance of the Kingship of Christ in his own very first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, and we must consider too that this is being written in 1939 on the eve of the outbreak of the most terrible war the world has ever seen and one which this Pope saw coming because He was the Ambassador to Germany from the Vatican in the years leading up to his pontificate.  And so let us read with attentiveness this words so dear and urgent to the Holy Father that it was the first thing he addressed the whole church about:

As We review from the standpoint of eternity the past forty years in their exterior events and interior developments, balancing achievements against deficiencies, We see ever more clearly the sacred significance of that consecration of mankind to Christ the King; We see its inspiring symbolism We see its power to refine and to elevate, to strengthen and to fortify souls. We see, besides, in that consecration a penetrating wisdom which sets itself to restore and to ennoble all human society and to promote its true welfare. It unfolds itself to Us ever more clearly as a message of comfort and a grace from God not only to His Church, but also to a world in all too dire need of help and guidance: to a world which, preoccupied with the worship of the ephemeral, has lost its way and spent its forces in a vain search after earthly ideals. It is a message to men who, in ever increasing numbers, have cut themselves off from faith in Christ and, even more, from the recognition and observance of His law; a message opposed to that philosophy of life for which the doctrine of love and renunciation preached in the Sermon on the Mount and the Divine act of love on the Cross seem to be a stumbling block and foolishness.


Even as the precursor of the Lord proclaimed one day to those who sought and questioned him: “Behold the lamb of God” (Saint John i. 29), in order to warn them that the desired of the nations (cf. Aggeus ii. 8), dwelt, though as yet unrecognized, in their midst, so, too, the representative of Christ addressed his mighty cry of entreaty: “Behold your King” (Saint John xix. 14) to the renegades, to the doubters, to the wavering, to the hesitant, who either refused to follow the glorious Redeemer, living ever and working in His Church, or followed Him with carelessness and sloth.


From the widening and deepening of devotion to the Divine Heart of the Redeemer, which had its splendid culmination in the consecration of humanity at the end of the last century, and further in the introduction, by Our immediate predecessor of happy memory, of the Feast of Christ the King, there have sprung up benefits beyond description for numberless souls — as the stream of the river which maketh the City of God joyful (Psalm xlv. 5). What age had greater need than ours of these benefits? What age has been, for all its technical and purely civic progress, more tormented than ours by spiritual emptiness and deep-felt interior poverty? May we not, perhaps, apply to it the prophetic words of the Apocalypse: “Thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Apocalypse iii. 17.)



Can there be, Venerable Brethren, a greater or more urgent duty than to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians iii. 8) to the men of our time? Can there be anything nobler than to unfurl the “Ensign of the King” before those who have followed and still follow a false standard, and to win back to the victorious banner of the Cross those who have abandoned it? What heart is not inflamed, is not swept forward to help at the sight of so many brothers and sisters who, misled by error, passion, temptation and prejudice, have strayed away from faith in the true God and have lost contact with the joyful and life-giving message of Christ?


Who among “the Soldiers of Christ” — ecclesiastic or layman — does not feel himself incited and spurred on to a greater vigilance, to a more determined resistance, by the sight of the ever-increasing host of Christ’s enemies; as he perceives the spokesmen of these tendencies deny or in practice neglect the vivifying truths and the values inherent in belief in God and in Christ; as he perceives them wantonly break the Tables of God’s Commandments to substitute other tables and other standards stripped of the ethical content of the Revelation on Sinai, standards in which the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Cross has no place?


Who could observe without profound grief the tragic harvest of such desertions among those who in days of calm and security were numbered among the followers of Christ, but who — Christians unfortunately more in name than in fact — in the hour that called for endurance, for effort, for suffering, for a stout heart in face of hidden or open persecution, fell victims of cowardice, weakness, uncertainty; who, terror-stricken before the sacrifices entailed by a profession of their Christian Faith, could not steel themselves to drink the bitter chalice awaiting those faithful to Christ?


In such dispositions of time and temperament, Venerable Brethren, may the approaching Feast of Christ the King, on which this, Our first Encyclical, will reach you, be a day of grace and of thorough renewal and revival in the spirit of the Kingdom of Christ. May it be a day when the consecration of the human race to the Divine Heart, which should be celebrated in a particularly solemn manner, will gather the Faithful of all peoples and all nations around the throne of the Eternal King, in adoration and in reparation, to renew now and forever their oath of allegiance to Him and to His law of truth and of love.


And so now we must put into practice this worship of our Lord as Christ the King and to keep Him always in mind as we consider how we will vote.


Traditionally the Sunday preceding the Feast of All Saints is the feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. One may gain a plenary indulgence by the public recitation of the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Here is the recommendation for this from Pope Pius XI in Quas Primas:


The kingship and empire of Christ have been recognized in the pious custom, practiced by many families, of dedicating themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; not only families have performed this act of dedication, but nations, too, and kingdoms. In fact, the whole of the human race was at the instance of Pope Leo XIII, in the Holy Year 1900, consecrated to the Divine Heart.

We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October–the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Our predecessor of saintly memory, Pope Pius X, commanded to be renewed yearly, be made annually on that day.


Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus


Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy most Sacred Heart.


Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee; grant that they may quickly return to Thy Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.


Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that there may be but one flock and one Shepherd.


Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of the race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.


Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: “Praise be to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever.” Amen.



Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat!


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