King of the Universe - 23rd November 2014

November 23rd is the 34th, and last, Sunday of the liturgical year. On this day 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, as these words from the Preface for the feast indicate:
so that, … making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your majesty
an eternal and universal kingdom,
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 the Collect for the day:

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 evident across the world at present, the Prayer over the Offerings is most apt:

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.

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.

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.


Elizabeth Harrington