|Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) and an image of Christ The King|
Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of Christ The King. It was originally instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the evils of the day, and the fact that the majority of the laity discarded Christ's royal authority and inclusion in their lives. The absence of Christ in the hearts and minds of so many individuals was made evident by the reality of Christ's removal from private affairs and politics. In response to this spiritual crisis, Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity of Christ The King, a feast to be celebrated by the entire universal Church during the last week of the liturgical year. In addition, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical, Quas Primas (In The First) to accompany the insertion of this new feast.
One of the most important points in Quas Primas is located within the first paragraph where Pope Pius XI stated, "...[A]s long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ." (1) It is a message that is very applicable in today's state of affairs in the Church and in the world. How fitting a read this document is with Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year, just one week away on December 1.
In reading Quas Primas, it becomes evident very quickly just how dear a subject this was for Pope Pius XI. Not only had he acceded to the demands of many of the Cardinals, Bishops and lay faithful, by inserting the solemnity of "the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ," issuing this encyclical in the process, but he wrote it in such a way that it is sure to kindle in the heart of the the reader, a strong desire to insert Christ as King in each one's life. Here is what he expressed in his own words:
It has long been a common custom to give to Christ the metaphorical title of "King," because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures. So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his "charity which exceedeth all knowledge." And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him, for never has it been known, nor will it ever be, that man be loved so much and so universally as Jesus Christ. But if we ponder this matter more deeply, we cannot but see that the title and the power of King belongs to Christ as man in the strict and proper sense too. For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father "power and glory and a kingdom," since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created. (7)Pope Pius XI went on to cite references that further spotlighted Christ as King. Cited are scripture references from Numbers and the Psalms, and the testimony from the Prophets Isaias, Jeremias, Daniel and Zachary. Also quoted is the Archangel Gabriel, when he announced to the Virgin that she should bear a Son, that "...[T]he Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (10) Pope Pius XI noted that it was Christ himself who spoke of his own kingly authority when publicly questioned by the Roman magistrate, and also when He appeared to the Apostles and called himself "king" and declaring publicly that "...[A]ll power was given him in heaven and on earth." (11) In addition, Pope Pius XI also explained the nature and meaning of the lordship of Christ, that our Redeemer's empire embraces all men. He quoted Pope Leo XIII on this point, "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ." (18)
Pope Pius XI stressed that there is great significance for a society that embraces Christ as king. Only in a society that acknowledges this, can its leaders preserve their authority and increase prosperity amongst its citizens. However, when a society moves in the opposite direction; that is, excluding God from political life, and with authority derived not from God, but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the fundamental reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been removed. What results is a society "...[T]ottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation." (18) Just as the feast of Christ The King was established to remedy the needs of the day, it also should be used to remedy the problems of our modern day society.
How pertinent and relevant are Pope Pius XI's words for today's Canadian society. In Pope Pius XI's time, anti-clerical attitudes brought on by the spirit of evil, encouraged men to error and to impious activities. What resulted then, was much of what has continued today, as Pope Pius VI states:
...The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences...(24)What have our political leaders done to recognize Christ as king. Are we not witnessing in our own day anti-Christian attitudes, indifference to Christ, and an overall secular mentality that has gripped the national psyche. Do our laws reflect moral and ethical thinking rooted in Christianity. Should our laws not be a continuation of Canada's Christian heritage. Was not our nation founded by Christian people, the French and the British, and among them many Catholic missionaries and Orders that evangelized and converted so many in what was then considered to be the "New World." Sadly, in today's Canadian political life, "God and Christ" has been removed by those who have been entrusted to work and build for the common good.
Need proof of "God's and Christ's" removal from the Canadian political landscape? All you have to do is look to Canada's most recent abortion history, the chronology of laws that have made abortion legal and available on demand. This is "proof positive" not only of a lack of respect for human life, but a rebellion against God, a defiance of God and his holy laws, which are characteristic of the spirit of evil. Abortion directly contradict's God's holy law of "thou shall not kill." (Exodus 20:13) It is a commandment that Jesus reminds the rich man, who asked Jesus as to how he may have eternal life? Jesus replied, "...You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal..." (Matthew 19:18) With the 1969 omnibus bill, the murder of babies in the womb, euphemistically referred to as, "therapeutic abortions" was ushered in for use in hospitals. Hospital committees determined when a pregnancy "qualified" for an abortion and in almost every case, hospitals approved abortions. The truth is that the 1969, omnibus bill became a "carte blanche" to perform abortions, which eventually became available on demand in 1988, with the infamous Dr. Morgantaler's constitutional challenge. It was a challenge which resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada striking down section 251 of the Criminal Code, the section governing abortion, declaring it unconstitutional. From that point on, there was no legal restriction against abortion, nor was it considered criminal activity.
Most recently, we are confronted with another life threatening issue, euthanasia. In Quebec, Bill 52 an effort to legalize euthanasia, was proposed under the euphemistic bill title, An Act respecting end-of-life care. In the province of British Columbia in October'2013, The BC Court of Appeal had struck down the decision by Justice Smith and upheld the current laws which protect Canadians from euthanasia and assisted suicide. Sentiments in favour of euthanasia have also been echoed by Ontario's premier Kathleen Wynne who has publicly proposed that Canada should have a national debate on euthanasia. Any discussion on euthanasia and any proposed bill is an effort to rationalize the legalized killing of Canadians. Proponents for euthanasia may have a litany of excuses as to why euthanasia should be legalized, such as the ending of suffering, too costly for the state to treat the individual, performed at the request of the patient, terminal illness and more. What ever the arguments for euthanasia are, it does not negate the fact that one individual is killing another individual. Here in Canada, we call this murder. Not only is murder against God's holy law, but it ignores the sacredness of human life, a sacredness which is noted and clearly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church's Article 5 The Fifth Commandment:
Human life if sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being. (2258)As Pope Pius XI pointed out, it is only as when the kingdom of Christ is received by nations that happiness will abound amongst all men, individuals and families. Pope Pius XI saw the wisdom in not only announcing "Christ The King," but inserting His kingship as an annual feast to properly encourage it and reach all the faithful. Announcements only reach a privileged few, but feasts reach everyone.
I hope that the Solemnity of Christ The King will become better known and understood by all in the Church, and that it will result in the restoration of Christ in society. It is a hope that Pope Pius XI also expressed in 1925, "We firmly hope, however, that the feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result." (24)
May God grant us all the grace to understand the importance of Christ's kingship and accept His royal authority in our lives.