Blog: Sacred Heart of Jesus & Immaculate Heart of Mary
by Archangel777

Feast of Christ the King.

Date:   11/22/2009 4:30:53 AM   ( 12 y ) ... viewed 1201 times

 The Feast of Christ the King

The Feast of Christ the King

Our Church Year begins on Advent Sunday.    Today is the Sunday before Advent – in other words the very last week of the Church’s year before we begin again with Advent Sunday.


Traditionally this Sunday was known as 'Stir-Up Sunday' - named after the opening of the old collect for today: 'Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.'    And traditionally, it served as a timely reminder to the cook in the house to get on and stir up the Christmas puddings too.


I don’t know how many of you get your Christmas pud from M&S these days, and how many still stir up your own – but the old stir up prayer from the 1662 Prayer Book is still there in our MWB (p560) as one of the 2 collects for today.

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people,
that they, bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be richly rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

But over the last 80 years or so, this Sunday in the Church’s year has, to use the modern phrase, been “re-branded”.    Today – together with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and many more across the world, we celebrate the Sunday before Advent as the Feast of Christ the King.

And that incidentally is why the MWB offers another collect for today, which begins:

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven, that he might rule over all things as Lord…


In fact The Festival of Christ the King has a lot in common with Ascension Day – although those of us who struggle with the “up and down escalator” mythological imagery of the ascension maybe feel more at home with the image of Christ the King of all.

Today is a day when we celebrate the ultimate authority of Christ over his Kingdom – on earth and in heaven.

It was only initiated as a special day in the calendar in 1925 when Pope Pius XI established it as a Roman Catholic feast day on the last Sunday in October   In 1969 the Roman Church moved it to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and it is now recognized by most Churches.    So today, most of western Christendom — Romans and Protestants — observe the Festival of Christ the King on the last Sunday of the church year.      A new feast celebrating a timeless truth.

It is thought provoking to think back to the early days of the new Church Feast.

The Europe of the1930s was a hardly the place where Christ appeared to be King.    German Nazis and Italian and Spanish fascists and Russian Stalinists ruled by the jackboot and the violence of heartless force. 

Against that backdrop, the Church begins to celebrate a new Festival – one which summons the faithful to meditate on the sovereignty of Christ over all creation – a kingship exemplified not in political oppression, but in sacrificial love.

They must have asked themselves – who is King in my life – Christ or Caesar?

And like them, on Christ the King Day we inevitably remember the scene on Golgotha, when above Christ’s cross were inscribed the words “The King of the Jews” (John 19:21)  
And the religious leaders objected that Jesus was not King of the Jews – indeed that there was only one King, Caesar – then did Pilate of all people say “What I have written, I have written”. 

Whether or not Pilate knew what he was saying, we know that Christ’s Kingship is no piece of empty bravado – it separates him from the Caesars, Mussolinis, Hitlers and Stalins of the world – for he is the King of Kings.

There is a famous hymn about Christ the King (sadly not in HAP).   It was written in the 1930s by Bishop George Bell, Bishop of Chichester who has been described as one of the greatest Archbishops of Canterbury who never was.    Bell was fearless in criticising what he saw as the abuse of power – whether by Hitler and Mussolini or by British blanket bombing of Dresden towards the end of the war.   

Bishop Bell was frequently vilified and cold shouldered by the “powers that be”.    

And yet, as the lights went out across Europe in the 1930s, he wrote this marvellous hymn to Christ the King – all the more marvellous when we think what was happening around him –

Christ is the King - O friends rejoice.
Brothers and sisters with one voice
Tell all the world he is your choice. Alleluia.

As George Bell watched his world collapse into power hungry violence, he knew that here of all times was the need to celebrate true power and the true King

Let Love's unconquerable might
God's people everywhere unite
In service to the Lord of Light. Alleluia.

And we await the results of arms inspectors’ visits to Iraq.    There is no guarantee that our world may not be on the verge of hugely escalated violence, be it in the form of terrorist attacks or – just as frightening – nation states fighting by terrorist rules.  


And this is therefore a good time to stand on Golgotha’s hill and say with Christians down many dark ages – the world may look a dark and dangerous place, but we rejoice in the one who wields ultimate power – the power of the King of Love.



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