8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Feast of Christ the King

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"Christ the King" in Poland / Mohylek / Wikimedia Commons

On the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, today is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, more commonly known as the Feast of Christ the King.

The last Sunday of the liturgical year (next week is Advent!), this feast reminds us that whatever earth powers may do or ask of us, Christ is the true king that should reign in our hearts.

Here are 8 things about this awesome feast you may not have known:

1) It was instituted less than 100 years ago in 1925

In the aftermath of the First World War, in the midst of the rise of Communism in Russia, and during the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea (325), Pope Pius XI instituted the feast in his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas, though its first celebration took place in 1926.

2) It was first celebrated on Halloween in 1926

It was originally supposed to be the last Sunday of October, just before the Feast of All Saints – which, in 1926, just happened to be October 31st.

3) In 1969, Pope Paul VI revised the feast, giving it its current name and date

Pope Paul VI gave the feast its current full title (the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe) and moved it to the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

4) The feast was a response to the rise of secularization, atheism, and communism

While the world was increasingly telling Christians that they must compartmentalize their religion and give their highest allegiance to the government, Pope Pius XI wrote regarding the feast:

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)

5) Despite its recent Catholic origins, the feast is celebrated by many Protestants

Even though it was created by a pope less than a hundred years ago, some Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians celebrate the feast.

6) In the protestant Church of Sweden, this Sunday is called “the Sunday of Doom”

Its official name is “the Return of Christ,” but its colloquial name comes from the fact that they give a particular focus on the Last Judgement at Christ’s Second Coming.

7) Some Anglicans refer to this Sunday as “Stir-up Sunday”

This Sunday got this name for two reasons:

First, the Anglican collect for the day begins with the words, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…” Second, some old pudding recipes require the pudding to sit for several weeks before being cooked. This Sunday became a day that people would traditionally begin preparing pudding for Christians, which includes “stirring it up.”

These two things came together in people’s minds, as Wikipedia explains: “Supposedly, cooks, wives and their servants would go to church, hear the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…’, and be reminded, by association of ideas, that it was about time to start stirring up the puddings for Christmas.”

8) The “Christ the King” statue in Poland is the largest statue of Jesus in the world

At 33 meters tall (one meter for each year of Jesus’ earthly life), the Christ the King statue is 3 meters taller than the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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