Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fun Facts to Know and Tell About Christ the King Sunday

‘Christ the King’ Sunday

by Melissa Hayes, Director of Liturgy
All Saints Church, Pasadena

When we first started exploring this history of the feast of ‘Christ the King’ Sunday, I assumed it had been in our lectionary since the publication of the King James Bible (1611) – or at least the composition of Handel’s Messiah (1741). I decided to research its history going to the library (i.e., Google) and learn a bit more about it. I thought the first link (Wikipedia) was a joke – or at least a mistake….it claimed the feast day was established in 1925! Other links confirmed that:

Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy, which was claimed by Benito Mussolini.

The encyclical Quas Primas, symbolically marked that Christ must reign now temporally. In its replacing of the feast on the last Sunday of Pentecost, the later Mass of Paul VI calendar symbolized the new orientation of the Second Vatican Council in that Christ will reign, not now among nations, but at the end of time.

The Anglican Church, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists joined in adding this Feast Day to their lectionary. I couldn’t find the Feast Day in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but it does appear in the 1979 version (our current version.)

I took this information to my Language & Liturgy group and we had a field day with it. To 21st century ears the language of “Christ the King’ Sunday can sound like heavy-handed, hierarchical hold-over from our patriarch dominated past – and yet it makes perfect sense when you realize it was a response to the growing fascist movement in Europe.

Our group discussed Jesus standing against the empire and what that leadership looks like. We admitted our human response to someone of great spiritual authenticity is to venerate them – even if titles and hierarchies are not important to them. Our findings led us to conclude that Jesus “kingship” does not involve domination or triumphalism -- but the radical, all-powerful compassion and love of Jesus seeking justice for all.

Happy Christ the King Sunday, Church!

1 comment:

JCF said...

yet it makes perfect sense when you realize it was a response to the growing fascist movement in Europe

Perhaps...but I think it was instituted even moreso as a reaction to growing socialist/communist movements everywhere.

I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. The Mexican priest executed by the socialist government, Blessed Miguel Pro, died proclaiming "Viva Cristo Rey!"

But it is *curious* that TEC (and other non-RC churches) incorporated this contemporary feast w/ so little discussion of it (perhaps we just wanted another excuse to sing "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name" and "Crown Him w/ Many Crowns"? ;-/)