King of the Universe

On the last Sunday of the liturgical year (26th November this year) the Church celebrates the solemnity of Christ the King, or “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe”, as it is now called in the Roman calendar.  The feast was instituted by Pius IX in 1925 as a way of countering the increasing atheism and secularisation of society. It was an assertion of Christ’s sovereignty over all human societies and institutions.

The kingship of Christ is not about the power or splendour often associated with royalty. The Preface for the Feast describes Christ’s Kingdom as “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace”. 

The emphasis on the cosmic nature of Christ’s kingship is seen in today’s Collect:

         Almighty ever-living God,
         whose will is to restore all things
         in your beloved Son, the King of the universe;
         grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery,
         may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

With so much division and conflict in the world at present, the Prayer over the Offerings is particularly appropriate:

         As we offer you, O Lord, the sacrifice
         by which the human race is reconciled to you,
         we humbly pray
         that your Son himself may bestow on all nations
         the gifts of unity and peace.

In the Prayer after Communion we look forward to eternal life with Christ our King:

        Having received the food of immortality,
        we ask, O Lord,
        that glorying in obedience
        to the commands of Christ, the King of the universe,
        we may live with him eternally in his heavenly Kingdom.

The first reading and the psalm for the feast this year (year A) use the image of God as shepherd of Israel who defends the just and upholds the weak. The concluding verse of the reading from Ezekiel presents the shepherd as judge and provides a link with the Gospel reading for the day in which Christ judges all people according to how they have treated the poor and the powerless.

The second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians makes the connection between Christ’s kingship and his resurrection. Death came through Adam; resurrection comes through Christ. Paul proclaims his conviction that, at the end of time, the risen Christ will do away with every other authority and have power even over death itself. This will be the final establishment of the kingdom of God.

Elizabeth Harrington