Feast of Christ the King
|Solemnity of Christ the King|
|Observed by||Roman Catholic Church|
Anglican Communion
Other Christian denominations
|Liturgical Color||White or gold|
Eucharistic adoration for a full day
|Date||Final Sunday of the Liturgical Calendar (being the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent); from 20–26 November, inclusive (in Ordinary Form), or final Sunday of October (in Extraordinary Form)|
|2020 date||22 November (ordinary form); 25 October (extraordinary form)|
|2021 date||21 November (ordinary form); 31 October (extraordinary form)|
|2022 date||20 November (ordinary form); 30 October (extraordinary form)|
|2023 date||26 November (ordinary form); 29 October (extraordinary form)|
|First time||31 October 1926|
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, commonly referred to as the Feast of Christ the King or Christ the King Sunday, is a relatively recent addition to the Western liturgical calendar, having been instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI for the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. In 1970 its Roman Rite observance was moved to the final Sunday of Ordinary Time. Therefore, the earliest date on which it can occur is 20 November and the latest is 26 November. The Anglican, Lutheran, and many other Protestant churches also celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, which is contained in the Revised Common Lectionary. Roman Catholics adhering to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite use the General Roman Calendar of 1960, and as such continue to observe the Solemnity on its original date of the final Sunday of October. It is also observed on the same computed date as the final Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent, by Western-rite parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Origin in patristics
According to Cyril of Alexandria, "Christ has dominion over all creatures, ...by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the hypostatic union. "[T]he 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."
"From this it follows that to Christ angels and men are subject. Christ is also King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. ...' We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ." A third ground of sovereignty is that God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion. "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)
The Feast of Christ the King has an eschatological dimension pointing to the end of time when the kingdom of Jesus will be established in all its fullness to the ends of the earth. It leads into Advent, when the Church anticipates Christ’s second coming.
Roman Catholic Church
Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King in his encyclical Quas primas of 1925, in response to growing secularism and nationalism, and in the context of the unresolved Roman Question.
The title of the feast was "Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Regis" ([of] Our Lord Jesus Christ the King), and the date was established as "the last Sunday of the month of October – the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints". In Pope John XXIII's revision of the calendar in 1960, the date and title were unchanged but, according to the simplification of the ranking of feasts, it was classified as a feast of the first class.
In his motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis of 1969, Pope Paul VI amended the title of the Feast to "D. N. Iesu Christi universorum Regis" (Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe). He also moved it to the new date of the final Sunday of the liturgical year, before the commencement of a new liturgical year on the First Sunday of Advent (the earliest date for which is 27 November). Through this choice of date "the eschatological importance of this Sunday is made clearer". He assigned to it the highest rank of "solemnity".
In the extraordinary form, as happens with all Sundays whose liturgies are replaced by those of important feasts,[note 1] the prayers of the Sunday on which the celebration of the feast of Christ the King occurs are used on the ferias (weekdays) of the following week. The Sunday liturgy is thus not totally omitted. In 2020, the Solemnity day falls on 31 October for those using the former calendar.
Anglican and other Protestant Churches
Those churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary observe Christ the King Sunday as the final Sunday of their liturgical year. These churches include most Anglican and major mainline Protestant groups, including the Church of England, Episcopal Church, Anglican Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other Lutheran groups, United Methodist Church and other Methodist groups, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ and other Calvinist traditions like the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Moravian Church. Some, such as the Uniting Church in Australia refer to it in non-gendered terms as feast of The Reign of Christ.
In the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Church of Finland, this day is referred to as Judgement Sunday, previously highlighting the final judgement, though after the Swedish Lectionary of 1983 the theme of the day was amended to the Return of Christ. A distinct season of Kingdomtide is or has been observed by a number of churches on the four Sundays before Advent, either officially or semi-officially; in the Church in Wales, part of the Anglican Communion, these four Sundays before Advent are called the "Sundays of the Kingdom" and Christ the King is observed as a season and not as a single festal day.
Significance for the laity
While the encyclical that established this feast was addressed, according to the custom of the time, to the Catholic Bishops, Pope Pius XI wanted the Feast to impact the laity:
"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. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God."
- Richert, Scott P. (29 July 2018). "When Is the Feast of Christ the King?". Learn Religions. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
- Fraternity of St. Gregory the Great calendar
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §7, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
- Quas primas, §13. sfn error: no target: CITEREFQuas_primas,_§13 (help)
- Pope Pius XI (December 11, 1925). "Quas primas". Vatican.va.
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §28, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
- Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 63
- motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis
- "Liturgical Calendar for the Dioceses of the United States of America". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2014.
- "Liturgical Calendar 2015". The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-02-04.
- Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings Proposed by the Consultation on Common Texts, Augsburg Fortress, 2005, pp. 304–305, ISBN 0806649305
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §33, Libreria Editrice Vaticana