Christ the King Sunday celebrates the all-embracing authority of Christ as King and Lord of the cosmos. Officially called the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, it is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent. In 2015, the feast falls on November 20.

Christ the King Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary time (last Sunday after Pentecost), before the beginning of Advent that starts the new Church Year. As the last Sunday of the Christian Church Year, Christ the King Sunday is the climax and conclusion of the Church’s liturgical journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message. Its purpose is to celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of the Earth and his completion of the renewed creation that marks the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That hope is born from the entire life of Christ and his teachings that have been celebrated in the seasons of the Church Year during the past twelve months. In celebrating the Reign of Christ the King, this Sunday also provides an appropriate bridge to the new Church Year that begins the following Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent with an emphasis on hope and expectation, the longing for the coming of the Kingdom of God amid the darkness of a sinful world.

As such a bridge between the completed year and the beginning of a new year, Christ the King services often use Scripture and song to provide both a retrospective and introductory overview of the journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message that the Seasons of the Church Year provides. This offers not only an opportunity for a worshipful reflection on the significance of the life of Christ, it also presents opportunity to remind people of the meaning of the various seasons of the Church Year.

Liturgical Color(s):
White

Type of Holiday: 
Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation

Time of Year:
Final Sunday of Ordinary Time (Sunday before Advent)

Duration:
One Sunday

Celebrates/Symbolizes:
Jesus as King, Messiah, and Lord

Alternate Names:
Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
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Matthew 25:31-46

The Judgement of the Nations

 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ 

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

   

Psalm 23

The Divine Shepherd

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; 
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.
 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.
 

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

Introduction

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, and many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but instead have worsened.

Pius hoped the institution of the feast would have various effects. They were:

1. That nations would see that the Church has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32).
2. That leaders and nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ (Quas Primas, 31).
3. That the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies (Quas Primas, 33).

Today, the same distrust of authority exists, although the problem has gotten worse. Individualism has been embraced to such an extreme, that for many, the only authority is the individual self. The idea of Christ as ruler is rejected in such a strongly individualistic system. Also, many balk at the idea of kings and queens, believing them to be oppressive. Some even reject the titles of "lord" and "king" for Christ because they believe that such titles are borrowed from oppressive systems of government. However true these statements might be (some kings have been oppressive), these individuals miss the point: Christ's kingship is one of humility and service. Jesus said:

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45, NAB).

and

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?"... Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth (John 18:33b, 36-37).

Thus, Jesus knew the oppressive nature of secular kings, and in contrast to them, he connected his role as king to humble service, and commanded his followers to be servants as well. In other passages of Scripture, his kingdom is tied to his suffering and death. While Christ is coming to judge the nations, his teachings spell out a kingdom of justice and judgment balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness. When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity and whose "loving-kindness endures forever." Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him. Thus we must never forget that Christ radically redefined and transformed the concept of kingship.

Christ the King Sunday used to be celebrated on the last Sunday of October, but since the calendar reforms of 1969, the feast falls on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, which is the Sunday before Advent. It is fitting that the feast celebrating Christ's kingship is observed right before Advent, when we liturgically wait for the promised Messiah (King).

1. Isn't calling Christ "King" antiquated and oppressive?

I would say "no" on both counts. First, "Christ the King Sunday" has a much better ring to it than "Christ our Democratically Elected Leader Sunday." Joking aside, despite the success and value of a democratic form and government for secular affairs, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a democracy. God does not take opinion polls, nor can he be recalled or voted out of office. This is actually a good thing. We are not dealing with an unjust and petty dictator, but a loving and just king, who is both God and man. While democracy is the best form of government we have at the current time on earth, sometimes following the will of the people is not a good thing: think Nazi Germany and the Russian Revolution! Better a perfect God ruling the kingdom of heaven than imperfect man subject to whims and fads. Throughout history, oppressive kings have also been petty and evil, and this is why a mistrust of "king" language has developed. However we must recall that Jesus radically redefined the nature of kingship when he said "Rather, whoever wishes to become great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45, NAB).

While the Church has done things in the name of God that are wrong, and Christians of all churches have as well, we can rest assured that the King of the Cosmos is just and merciful, and will be with us until the end of the age. The love, justice, and mercy of Christ liberate us from sin and death, and give us the grace to act with love, justice, and mercy ourselves. Thus the reality of Christ as king is neither antiquated nor oppressive, but timeless and liberating. See Christ the Crucified King: Reflections on Christ the King Sunday by Jonathan Bennett for more on these themes.

2. Is Christ the King Sunday the Last Day of Ordinary Time?

No. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time. The weekdays that follow are also a part of Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time ends on Saturday afternoon of that week, since the evening Masses of that Saturday signal the beginning of Advent.

History

The earliest Christians identified Jesus with the predicted Messiah of the Jews. The Jewish word "messiah," and the Greek word "Christ," both mean "anointed one," and came to refer to the expected king who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans. Christians believe that Jesus is this expected Messiah. Unlike the messiah most Jews expected, Jesus came to free all people, Jew and Gentile, and he did not come to free them from the Romans, but from sin and death. Thus the king of the Jews, and of the cosmos, does not rule over a kingdom of this world.

Christians have long celebrated Jesus as Christ, and his reign as King is celebrated to some degree in Advent (when Christians wait for his second coming in glory), Christmas (when "born this day is the King of the Jews"), Holy Week (when Christ is the Crucified King), Easter (when Jesus is resurrected in power and glory), and the Ascension (when Jesus returns to the glory he had with the Father before the world was created). However, Pius XI wanted to specifically commemorate Christ as king, and instituted the feast in the Western calendar in 1925.

In the 21st century many Western Christians, Catholic and Protestant, celebrate Christ the King Sunday, including Anglicans and Lutherans. Unfortunately, in some mainline Protestant churches, "king" language is not popular, and the feast is downplayed. However, in a chaotic and unjust world that seems to scorn any kind of authority, many Christians proudly celebrate Christ the King Sunday, where the loving and merciful - and just - king of the universe is praised and glorified.

Traditions, Symbols & Typology

Traditions and Customs
Offering Prayers to Christ as King

Symbols
Crown of Thorns
Crown
Jesus on Throne
Jesus holding scepter and orb
Kingly attire/activities
Crucifix

   
Calendar/Special Dates/Christ the King/the-kids-bulletin-christ-the-king.pdf

Calendar/Special Dates/Christ the King/the-kids-bulletin-christ-the-king-inside.pdf

Calendar/Special Dates/Christ the King/the-kids-bulletin-christ-the-king (1).pdf

Calendar/Special Dates/Christ the King/the-kids-bulletin-christ-the-king-inside (1).pdf
 
 
 
 
 
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