The notion and importance of a “Major Feast of Christ the King” can be traced to an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI in 1925 after World War I, when “royals” from several nations waged bitter war, sacrificing the lives and welfare of an entire generation of Europe’s and its colonial dependents’ population. And probably on account of which much of the entire world eventually suffered a deadly pandemic virus.
The idea that the Pope advanced was that “God with us,” Immanuel, the incarnate Christ of the Divine Trinity, is sovereign on earth, not any of the earthly combatants, no matter how related or otherwise royal, who wreaked such havoc on this planet. From this flows the understanding that our faith is meant to be lived out — not in pointless, disastrous, internecine squabbling, but instead in loving kindness, as Jesus summarized for us in his great, final sermon — the six obligations of the righteous — in Matthew 25:31-46.
Jesus outlines this for us in the manner of a proper sovereign (Christ the King.)
Looking across the 613 commands set out in the Torah, Jesus specifies for all time the six immutable obligations of loving-kindness, the manifestations of righteousness, that we believers, people of faith, must undertake, both literally and figuratively: feeding hunger, quenching thirst, welcoming strangers, giving cover (clothing, shelter, and the like), taking care of the sick (whom God alone can and may or may not choose to heal), and befriending by visiting and otherwise “being there” for one another in need.
We are called to remember that ours is meant to be a living faith. So says our Christ the King. Indeed, as we know from the Letter of James, chapter 2, verse 26: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., J.D., LL.D., D. Min., K.St.J, is Washington National Cathedral Priest Scholar and Chaplain, and he previously served churches in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands.