Saturday, 19 November 2011

Christ the King

We now approach the final days of the Church's year.   There is one more great feast day to come before we move into a new year, and into the penitential and preparational season of Advent.  In the modern calendar, the last Sunday of the liturgical year (ie tomorrow) is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.  Pope Paul VI moved the date of this feast in 1969, previously it had been celebrated on the last Sunday before All Saints' Day (and still is when the Extraordinary Form is used), which was the date set in the encyclical letter Quas Primas of Pope Pius XI, promulgated on 11 December 1925.

There are some rather good images of Christ the King, including the Van Eyck above, and indeed the rather more traditionally devotional image shown below (which I rather like).  However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that the feast is only about the time when the request expressed in the words of the Pater Noster "Thy kingdom come" have been fulfilled, even if Pope Paul VI's placing of the feast at the end of year points in that direction.

The feast is also about the ways in which Christ is already the Universal King.  In his Angelus address on the Feast of Christ the King in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said that "The Cross is the 'throne' from which He demonstrated the sublime regality of God-love."  He went on to explain that Christ the King is not about human-style power, but about service and love, with the perfect example of acceptance of this being the life of the Virgin Mary. As a result of her fiat mihi, "God exalted her over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth."  

If you have trawled through the details of the right-hand sidebar of this blog, you might have spotted that the there is an embedded youtube video of Blessed John Henry Newman's Lead Kindly Light, sung by the late, great Irish tenor Frank Patterson.  Perhaps it is my Celtic blood, but I must confess a fondness for his performances of church music: so be warned, there will be more links in the future.  Frank Patterson was not only a talented tenor who sang for Popes and Presidents, but he was also a devout Catholic and indeed a Knight of Malta.  Having offered a brief prayer for the repose of his soul, we turn to his stirring performance of Hail Redeemer King Divine.

On a personal note, approaching the turn of the liturgical year gives pause for reflection.  This is not just in the way it always does, thinking of lost family and friends throughout the month of the Holy Souls, and of the Four Last Things in Advent, and indeed of the joy and hope to be brought by Christmas and a new year.  For members of all the Ordinariate groups, this is the end of the liturgical year in which we left our (yes we admit it) much loved Church of England in order to share, with much joy, the priority given by the Holy Father to Christ's fervent desire that all should be one.  Therefore, with sincere thanksgiving for our welcome in the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, we also pause to pray for all those we have left behind in the Church of England, noting that we now for the first time enter a liturgical year without them. 

Coming from St Mary's Bourne St, the Feast of Christ the King is a particularly potent memory.  This was, and continues to be, marked in quite some style at St Mary's.  We send our friends there every good wish for tomorrow's event. 

For old time's sake, here is a photo taken from the organ gallery at St Mary's during the celebrations for Christ the King in 2009.  The author of this blogpost is acting as subdeacon, another member of Marylebone Ordinariate Group is on the far left at the altar rail, and it wouldn't surprise me if the third member of our group were also somewhere in the serving group. 

One Bourne St tradition at Christ the King that we can happily copy on this blog is the inclusion of the Hallelujah Chorus.  So, here it is.  A very happy Feast of the Christ the Universal King to you all, and please join your prayers with ours as we prepare to enter a new year.

Our Lady, pray for us, and may the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.


  1. I well remember experiencing Christ the King for the first time ever at Bourne Street back in what must have been 1982, when I first lived in London. I was completely bowled over by it. What was the significance of those chaps wearing red mantles? I used to think they must have been members of the CBS in parade dress, but when I joined it myself (at Bourne Street, admitted by Fr Bugby) was disappointed to find that such was not the case.

    Happy days ....

  2. Ah yes, I don't know the origin of the feriolette used at Bourne St. Red ones are used on Christ the King and Corpus Christi (ie for the processions of the Sacrament) and identical blue ones are used for Marian processions. They are normally used by those carrying the canopy, or carrying the bier with the image of Our Lady, as the case may be.