Before attending this small liberal arts college, I never paid much attention to this solemnity. But every year during the last Sunday before Advent, all of us Catholic Mass-goers would get decked out in red to celebrate our chapel’s feast day. The music was always specially selected to honor the solemnity, and one year a student was baptized during the Mass.
Looking back on those years and those Masses, I’m reminded of how easily we skip over feast days. All Saints Day and All Souls Day often go unnoticed in light of Halloween festivities. Saints’ feasts are celebrated in faint recognition. Even prominent solemnities like Christ the King are just another note on the calendar. But they should be so much more.
As I’m writing this, the feast of Christ the King is still a few weeks away. Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and people are starting to mentally buckle down for the rapid and chaotic holiday season. While we make room for the people in our lives, pulling out fine china (or turkey-printed paper plates) and making special dishes, we so easily can get caught up in the things we are supposed to do. And all too easily, it can be overwhelming. These holidays should be joyful, but sometimes we enter into them with the wrong perspective, believing we need to make everything perfect.
At the same time, the world around us seems so cloudy — and not just because winter is setting in and the days are getting shorter. Often the good we see in the world, and in our own Church, appears outweighed with the bad.
More than ever, we need to reclaim our sense of celebration as Christians, renewing our love for feast days big and small. So as we approach Christ the King Sunday — officially called the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — let us remind ourselves of a few essential elements of the Christian life.
First, no matter how difficult life may seem, no matter how dark the world may appear, it is crucial to remember that the battle is already won. Christ, the King of the Universe, has already defeated death and awaits the day we join him in heaven. Even in the chaos, even when we are tempted to lose hope in our world and our Church, Christ holds the world in his hands. If that is not a cause for joy and celebration, I don’t know what is.
Once we recognize and reclaim this reason to celebrate, it must permeate every aspect of our lives. As Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Quas Primas, in which he instituted the feast in 1925: “If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone” (No. 33).
So as we approach the holidays and this important solemnity, let’s remember to keep Christ as king in our families and our hearts. Only then can we have a true heart of gratitude and prepare for the liturgical seasons that follow.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor.