Today is The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!
Saying these majestic words out loud makes me shiver! They are words I would expect my five-year-old grandson to SHOUT, thrusting out a plastic sword in his outstretched hand as he does so. They are superhero words, an image of our God fully realized. Yet, we have the word “Solemnity.” What, exactly, is a solemnity?
The Church celebrates many days throughout the liturgical year: solemnities, feasts, and memorials. Solemnities are the Catholic Church’s number one highest order of celebration and mark the most important mysteries of our faith: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception name the most familiar. Solemnities are often Holy Days of Obligation, but not always, as in the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
This Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, leading us toward the first Sunday of Advent.
Instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quas Primas (“In the First”), this feast was the Pope’s response to the growing dark tide of, in his words, “anticlericalism.” Pius was pointedly referring to those people and groups–communism–intent on removing all Christian influences from politics and displaying increasing antagonism towards the Catholic Church. Pius wrote,
“Governments come and go; Christ reigns as king forever.”
This feast was—and still can be—a way for the Church to recognize the supreme reign of Christ in a very public way. Our families’ lives of faith are ever more at risk. Bombarded by secularism at every turn, our children are barely safe at home—and only if we take their electronics away. So how can we meaningfully celebrate this Solemnity almost 100 years after its inception?
We can retell the history of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, keeping it alive in our time.
We can attempt to drown out the premature cacophony of Christmas noise by shutting off the television.
We can tell stories of brave saints who stood up for righteousness in the face of evil.
We can plan true acts of charity and kindness to perform as a family during Advent.
We can set afire our younger children’s imaginations simply by reading words that they might not hear during Mass, such as today’s first reading:
As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven . . . (Dn 7:13-14).
Not solemn, this celestial Christ, King of the Universe, can be, with our guidance, the ultimate hero and desire of our children’s hearts.
Guiding us toward that goal even today is Pope Pius XI’s proclamation, “Pax Christi in regno Christi” (The peace of Christ in the reign of Christ).
In kindness, charity, and complete surrender of ourselves to Christ, we are living what Jesus taught us–that his sovereign love overreaches humanity and transcends time.