Did you know that the festival of Christ the King was established within the Church calendar as recently as 1925, by Pope Pius XI? His purpose was a refocusing of Christian direction and priorities in the face of the devastation of war past and threatened, growing secularism and the rise of extremes of political authority. We might say today plus ca change …. Pope Pius XI wanted to remind the Church and the world that there could be no hope of lasting peace in a world that rejected Christ:
“We live in the peace of Christ when we surrender our lives to him every day, accept him as our God, Saviour and King and allow him to rule our lives.” (Vatican Encyclical Quas Primas 11121925)
In the Anglican Communion the festival of Christ the King is celebrated this Sunday, the culmination of the Church year, a reminder that Jesus is the ultimate Lord of Earth and heaven, and that all creation, prophecy, law, judgment and life are brought to fulfilment in him. The Church of England liturgical guide to the seasons of the Christian year Common Worship: Times and Seasons (p537) says, “The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty.” As such, this festival marks an end and a beginning as we look to Advent, the weeks in which we take time to reflect and to scrutinise our lives in preparation to celebrate again the coming of God in the person of Jesus into the world. And Advent is also the season in which we refocus and reprioritise our lives as we look forward in hope to Christ coming again in all the transforming glory of his kingship – Christ the Alpha and the Omega.
It is significant that in the gospel reading for this Sunday, when Pilate asks Jesus if he is King of the Jews, Jesus responds by shifting the emphasis away from a particular place and political context. Instead he expresses his kingdom as those belonging to the truth and listening to his voice. (John 18: 33, 37)Recognising that Jesus is King means accepting our responsibility as subjects in his kingdom today as people who listen to God and hear, who try to live as servants in the world as Jesus has shown, and who look for Christ present and active in the situations and the people around us.
As we celebrate and give thanks this Sunday for Christ our King, let’s also give thanks that he has made us into Kingdom people now to serve and share his truth and his peace in the world today.
Photo by Wolfgang Sauber of window in Linz Cathedral, available under Creative Commons Licence