I don’t often express a disagreement with those who prepare liturgical texts, but on this feast I do. Saying that Christ is the King of the Universe, at least to me, makes it sound like Star Wars – that title sounds as if Jesus is some sort of government of the galaxy. I think that makes this feast too easy to dismiss as irrelevant to our lives. We’re often not quite sure what to do with the rulers we have in our own country, so why do we need another?
But if we look at the underlying reasons for the creation of the feast, there is a lot for us to think about. Think of the world in 1925, the year when Pius IX wrote the encyclical Quas primas; it turns out he was facing issues that might recognize. It was a time of strong nationalist feelings, with political leaders leaning towards autocratic structures. At the same time there were strong anti-Church movements, with people leaving Christ out of their lives when it came to making decisions both large and small.
Pius wrote that this leads to all kinds of problems: “the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin” (Quas primas, #24).
The message of the Pope, valid both then and now, is that following Jesus, both in how we make our own decisions, and in how we deal with each other in our society is not a question of being under some political super-leader. Rather, Christ represents the very fabric of the universe, as he participated in its founding. We follow Christ because Christ is the universal king, he represents the basic structures of the universe. He is the emblem of the universe. So let’s get over the image of an intergalactic empire, and rather see the value of keeping Christ in our personal universe, as a guide to doing and being in harmony with all that God has created.
Glenn Byer has been making music for the Mass for 40 years, and has been writing about and offering courses and workshops on liturgy for more than 30 years. He holds a Master’s in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame, and a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy at the Atheneaum of Sant’Anselmo in Rome. Glenn has written numerous books, among them are: 26 Ordinary Ways to Live the Liturgy, Unlocking the Feasts and Seasons of the Liturgical Year and Living the Liturgy of the Word.