The Feast of Christ the King?

Something strange must be happening in the world if so many of my (non-traditionalist) Catholic friends are heralding the Novus Ordo Feast of Christ the King and citing Pope Pius XI’s Quas Primas, as if the two are somehow compatible. For those following the traditional Roman liturgical cycle, the Feast of Christ the King arrived nearly a month ago and in the form Pius XI intended. This is made strikingly apparent at Mass, where the Collect for the feast has been intentionally mutilated.

  • Original: Let us pray, dearly beloved, for the holy Church of God: that our God and Lord may be pleased to give it peace, keep its unity and preserve it throughout the world: subjecting to it principalities and powers, and may He grant us, while we live in peace and tranquility, grace to glorify God the Father almighty.
  • Novus Ordo: Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

Of course there is nothing wrong with the new Collect per se; but it redirects the liturgical day away from a celebration of Christ’s social reign toward a heavenly expectation which will only be fulfilled at the end of time. One has to wonder how much of today’s feast would Pius XI even recognize.

The liturgical alterations to the feast are even more striking in the breviary. For instance, excerpts from Quas Primas which were originally assigned to be read at Matins have been removed in favor of an eschatoloigcal exhortation by Origen of Alexandria. Further, the 1962 Breviarium Romanum includes these verses from the Vespers hymn Te saeculorum principem which are omitted in the current Liturgy of the Hours:

The wicked mob screams out.
“We don’t want Christ as king,”
While we, with shouts of joy, hail
Thee as the world’s supreme King.
May the rulers of the world publicly
honor and extol Thee;
May teachers and judges reverence Thee;
May the laws express Thine order
And the arts reflect Thy beauty.
May kings find renown in their submission
and dedication to Thee.
Bring under Thy gentle rule our
country and our homes.
Glory be to Thee, Jesus, supreme over
All secular authorities;
And glory be to the Father and
The loving Spirit through endless ages.

Aeterna imago altissimi, which was traditionally sung at Matins and is today recited at Lauds, has been stripped of the following:

To Thee, Who by right claim rule over all men,
We willingly submit ourselves;
To be subject to Thy laws
Means happiness for a state and its peoples.
Glory be to Thee, Jesus,
Supreme over all secular authorities;
And glory be to the Father and
The loving Spirit through endless ages.

And finally, the hymn Vexilla regis from Lauds has been suppressed completely. Here is the hymn in full.

Christ’s flag unfurled in glory raised,
Triumphing o’er the serpent’s stings;
Come humbly forward all ye lands,
Applauding the great King of kings.

No force or threat doth he need use,
Not by coersion leadeth he;
Raised on the cross he draweth all,
With love unto his fruitful tree.

O! Thrice blest city of the Lord,
Wherein Christ ruleth without dearth;
Fervently she doth execute
His heavenly edicts to the earth,

No fiery weapon can e’er harm,
The peace ’stablished by Jesus’ hand;
In happiness and unity,
The ranks of Christ secure do stand.

A marriage blessed by faith in thee,
Yields virtuous offspring from the
womb;
Like seed in fertile soil doth grow,
In virtuous homes do children bloom.

We yearn and long to shine on us,
Thy light, O sweet and winsome King;
All thus submitted to thy reign,
To us, thy gift of peace do bring.

O Jesu! King of all the world,
Honour and glory be to thee;
With Father and with Paraclete,
Glory through all eternity.
Amen.

7 comments

  1. On one level, discussion on how the the body of prayers in the Roman liturgy were changed is of foundational importance. There was a deliberate recasting of prayer, presumably to be more compatible with modernity. Yet, this has been known since the Pauline liturgy was promulgated, included the noticable shift in the Mass and Office of Christ the King. It raises the question, how much is achieved by bringing up the same observations supported by the same arguments? I often wonder if the greatest obstacle facing those who want to preserve the Latin Tradition is that they commit themselves to an approach that has been exhausted. Something clearly should be done, but we’ve had 40 or so years with this and similar critiques (the observations and arguments tepeated verbatim) and it appears as though we have seen the utmost limits of its impact.

    1. I didn’t have time to get into it earlier, but what really sparked this post was how many people on social media are discussing Quas Primas today. When is the last time that happened? There has to be some sort of sociological explanation for this: the death of “religious liberty”; a frustration with the promises of liberalism; ISIS; etc. I just can’t recall this much discussion of QP in relation to today’s feast of Christ’s Kingship.

      1. Ah, correction cheerfully noted.

        Regarding Quas primas, who knows? If this is related to a sense of attack on religious liberty (civil, as opposed to the V2 document), then perhaps it will make more people interested in what the Roman Church was like before it decided to cozy up to modernity and the secular state….maybe even spark some serious reflection on things….would be nice.

  2. Don’t get me wrong I’m a huge fan of the older feast with its focus on the Social Reign of Christ the King, but there’s also something beautiful and true about the eschatological focus in the new version. I’m hardly the model Catholic so my opinion matters little in this, but I walked to the local new rite Church today and was pleasantly surprised by the readings and yes,even the homily. In a certain sense I’m more in favor of looking at the reign of Christ as something that is only ever going to be final when He comes again.

    Part of me finds the eschalotological focus far more biblical and far more realistic in light of original sin and man’s propensity to muck up everything he touches than the focus on building up a society here and now based on some Christian ideal. We mustn’t forget that Christendom is dead,and that no matter how amazing and noble the 12th and 13th centuries were in the Latin West for their attempted synthesis of Faith and Reason, Church and State they still crumbled and eventually gave way to modernity. We live in a fallen world that has been redeemed by Christ, but His reign and His empire will only be finalized beyond the veil.

    Today’s homily brought this together quite well.

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