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Why do we say that “Christ is King”?


Andreas F. Borchert | CC BY-SA 4.0

Edifa - published on 11/22/20

Why do we speak of Christ the King when Jesus says "my kingdom is not of this world"?

St. John gives us this curious dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus about the kingship of Christ: Pilate insists, “Are you a king? … So you are a king? … Behold your king!” And Jesus replies, “My kingdom is not of this world … You say I am a king. I was born and came into the world only to bear witness to the truth.”

Jesus Christ is a disconcerting king: a crown of thorns thrust onto his head, a reed scepter grafted into his hand, and a purple mantle thrown over his bruised flesh. These are the mocking insignia of this confusing royalty where this man, dressed in this way, is both king and kingdom. And to add to the paradox, Jesus made a beatitude of it in the present tense: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Even the thief, who has understood: he is not asking to be taken off the cross; he is asking for the Kingdom. And this Kingdom is not a concept, a doctrine, or a political program; it is, above all, a Person who has the face and the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the Eucharist, Christ the King sits on the throne of mercy

This Kingdom is inaugurated in the heart of man: it is there that Christ wants to reign first. We must therefore let go of the reins of power over our lives and leave the governance of our lives to Christ the King: “Be converted, for the kingdom of God is at hand” ( Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Happiness comes at this price. With this conversion, Christ can then establish his reign over human intelligence because he is the Truth that sets us free.

Christ also reigns through his charity that leads our will into the logic of self-surrender. However, Jesus, risen and glorious, reveals the true and universal character of his Kingship: “All power has been given to me in heaven and on earth” ( Matthew 28:18). In other words, this Kingship of Christ will necessarily have socio-political effects.

In instituting the feast of Christ the King on December 11, 1925, a troubled time in history, Pope Pius XI declared: “If men came to recognize the royal authority of Christ in their private and public lives, unbelievable blessings — true liberty, order and tranquility, harmony and peace — would unfailingly spread throughout the whole of society.” In other words, a true culture of peace and justice cannot be established without the reign of truth and love, i.e., without the reign of Christ who is Truth and Love.

The Church is already the reign of God mysteriously present in this world. By communicating divine life to men, it extends Christ’s reign on earth as it is in Heaven. The focal point of this kingdom is the Eucharist. There, the heart of Christ the King palpitates and will continue until the day when Jesus hands over all kingship to his Father. Then God will be wholly in us all. In the Eucharist, Christ the King sits on his throne of mercy waiting to guide us into His unending kingdom.

Father Nicolas Buttet

Read more:
Why the feast of Christ the King was originally celebrated in October

Liturgical Year
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