On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King.
Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas (“In the First”) to respond to growing secularism and atheism. He recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. This solemnity reminds us that while governments come and go, Christ reigns as King forever.
During the early twentieth century, in Mexico, Russia, and some parts of Europe, militantly secularistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful but civilization itself. Pope Pius XI’s encyclical gave Catholics hope and—while governments around them crumbled—the assurance that Christ the King shall reign forever. Jesus Christ “is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind” (Quas primas, 7).
Christ’s kingship is rooted in the Church’s teaching on the Incarnation. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is both the divine Lord and the man who suffered and died on the Cross. One person of the Trinity unites himself to human nature and reigns over all creation as the Incarnate Son of God. “From this, it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures”