Christus Regnat

The last Sunday of October is the feast of Christ the King, in the Calendar of the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (in the ordinary form it is the last Sunday before Advent.) It is a rather recent feast, introduced in 1925, by Pope Pius the IX, in response to secularism and anti-Christian atheistic governments. The concern of Pius IX which led him to found the feast was that Christ had been uncrowned, both corporately in official governments but also in individual hearts.

The classic Christian view of government and authority is that God is ruler and all legitimate authority comes from him. This concept predates Christianity. In the Old Testament God establishes the nation of Israel, gives them law and sends them judges to mediate justice. He is their King. Unfortunately, the Israelites didn’t like being different from the other nations and clamored for an earthly King. So God allowed them to have them. The result of this is disastrous, the majority of the kings “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD,” until God eventually allowed the nation to be destroyed and the children of Israel to be carried off to Babylon… back into slavery “Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.”

Traditional Christian understanding of legitimate authority is that it comes from Christ who is universal king. This applies both to the church and the state. For example the authority of a priest to absolve sin is not his own power but that of Christ given to him. Likewise, temporal government (the state) derives its authority from Christ.

St. Paul tells us. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:1-7)

The Apostle is saying this about the pagan government the Roman Christians were subject to. In obeying government we are of course never obligated to sin, if the laws of man are contrary to the laws of God then we are obligated to obey God rather than man.

With the rise of societies founded on Christianity the ruling classes recognized that they while being temporal kings and rulers were subject to the King of Kings. It was for this reason that monarchs were consecrated by bishops, just as the Old Testament kings, such as King David, were anointed by prophets. It is also why the chant Christus vincint, Christus regnant Christus imperat (Christ is victor, Christ is ruler, Christ is commander) was chanted, beginning with Charlemagne,  at coronations and monarchical processions in Christian Europe.

While there aren’t many monarchy’s left, Christ is still king, does he reign over your heart?

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