In the New York Tri-State, if there were a competition for which month deserves the title “most likely to remind you of the end times,” November would most certainly win. Visitors to our area shouldn’t be fooled by the gorgeous, warm, multicolored foliage. Any local will tell you that it’s just a matter of weeks before the leaves are gone and the long dark days of winter are upon us. Fittingly, the Church recognizes this natural rhythm, which, regardless of climate, places the somber topic of the four last things (death, judgment, heaven, and hell) in the liturgical calendar and concludes our ordinary time with the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Certainly, this feast provides the definitive hope we need to not only get through November but also prepare for our own personal judgment and look forward to the day when Jesus will come again in glory. It provides a needed paradigm shift away from nonessential distractions, which can consume our time and helps us deal with the present craziness of the world today.
Almost one hundred years ago, Pope Pius XI also faced a dismal landscape with the rise of secularization, atheism, and communism. His response was to enshrine this feast so that we could recognize Jesus as King of the Universe and respond to the challenges facing the world. In his 1925 encyclical, Quas Primas(In the First), he reasoned:
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.”(Quas Primas, 33)
Focusing on Christ as the King of the Universe provides a roadmap for how to live in the world: Christ must reign in our minds, in our wills, and in our hearts. The famous depiction of Christ the King shows Christ with a crown on His head, a scepter in his right hand, and an orb in his left. The orb symbolizes the world, and the cross on top signifies God’s dominion over the world. This image puts the world in perspective—despite the near-universal consensus that the world is in trouble– that everything is upside down, going in the wrong direction, lost, etc., how comforting it is to see Christ the King easily holding this crazy, confused world in the palm of his hand. Contrast this with the image of Atlas, a Titan in Greek mythology, who was condemned by Zeus to hold the world on his shoulders for all eternity. Atlas is clearly struggling, bent under the weight of that gigantic orb, and perhaps many people feel like this today. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to hold the world on our shoulders; He gives us another way, “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
Turning to the Gospel reading for the feast of Christ the King, we find rulers and soldiers taunting Jesus for a miracle, “If you are King of the Jews, get off the cross and save yourself” (Luke 23:37). Here is our King, on the cross, with arms outstretched with love, who would never turn His back on us. Of course, Jesus could have come down from the cross, effectively compelling the jeering crowd to believe in Him. But that’s not what Jesus’ Kingdom is about. It’s not about force; it’s about freedom. Our King offers the freedom to love Him, the freedom to choose Him. That’s how the “good thief” managed to “steal” heaven with his simple request, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). That is what is available if we surrender our minds, our wills, and our hearts to Him and Pius XI challenges us to live out our faith publicly as well as privately, “Thus, by sermons preached at meetings and in churches, by public adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed and by solemn processions, men unite in paying homage to Christ, whom God has given them for their King” (Quas Primas, 26).
This is exactly how the New York Tri-State came together to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on Sunday, November 20, 2022, at St. Paul Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. The entire Regnum Christi family was invited to a special mass concelebrated by Father Mark Haydu, Father Jorge Martinez, Father Eric Nielsen, Father Jorge Obregon, and Father Daniel Ray. In his homily, Father Daniel Ray reminded the listeners that, like all royalty, we were anointed at our baptisms and therefore equipped to live out the call expressed in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy Kingdom come.” This is the rallying cry for all Regnum Christi members who, personally and publicly, desire that Christ the King of the Universe reign in our minds, in our wills, and in our hearts, so that God’s will “will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This is our roadmap to eternity: Viva Cristo Rey!
Hope Hirshorn is the RC Director for the NY Tri-State. Hope has a M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Fordham, a M.P.A. and A.P.C in finance from NYU, and a certificate in Marian studies from her time in London. She and her husband reside in West Harrison, NY, and are the proud parents of six children.