Text - English
Mass Text - Latin
Preface of Christ the King
to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
In A.D. 313, Constantine issued the
Edict of Milan, legalizing Catholicism in the Roman Empire. For well over
900 years the Church and the Popes in Rome exercised a growing influence
over most of the peoples of Western civilization—nearly everything west of
the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Kings and Emperors received
their crowns from Archbishops and Popes.
The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV,
excommunicated by Pope Gregory VII for interfering in the appointment of bishops
and abbots, stood in the snow outside the castle of Canossa for three days in
1077, without shoes and wearing a hair shirt to beg his absolution.
Papal power reached its peak in the
pontificate of Innocent III (1198-1216), who clearly functioned as a power
broker in the affairs of Europe and beyond. During his reign he influenced the
succession of the Holy Roman Empire, excommunicated King John of England,
annulled Magna Carta, mediated disputes between France and England,
received kingdoms in Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Poland, and England as papal
fiefs, and launched a crusade in the East, as well as the Albigensian crusade in
But less than a century later, Philip IV
of France would dare to embargo the contributions of French bishops being sent
to Pope Boniface VIII, and even to take the Pope prisoner! Philip’s was one of
the first secular governments of the middle ages, replacing most of the clergy
in government with laymen trained in the law. The Wikipedia lists
twenty-one separate wars that are called “Anglo-French wars,” in the period
between 1213 and 1815.
Philip IV was desperate for money to fight the incessant war with England,
confiscating the property of the Jews of France, stealing from the Church, and
reneging on the loans he had obtained from the Knights Templar. His treatment
of the Templars, a religious order of the Church, was as murderous as it was
profitable to Philip—and may have caused the birth of Freemasonry, an implacable
enemy of the Church.
Between 1517 and 1547 Protestantism
infested large areas of Germany, the Baltic and Scandinavian countries,
Switzerland, Hungary, France, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Wales.
Generally, the inhabitants were required to follow the religion of their ruler,
a situation that contributed greatly to the thirty years and eighty years wars.
These wars ended in 1648 with the treaties known collectively as the “Peace of
Westphalia.” This “Peace” continued the idea of people following the religion
of the Prince, and ushered in the idea of sovereign states totally independent
of the Church.
By 1914 many of the smaller states had
formed entangling alliances with others, and the usual lust for power, land, and
money broke out into World War I—a war that took the lives of twenty million
people and left many more wounded and/or homeless. The same period saw the
revolution that made Russia a Godless empire, that would arrange the death of
many millions more. The Versailles Treaty of 1919, set the stage for a second
world war—to be fought with the far more lethal weapons of modern technology.
Pius XI was elected Pope in 1922 and
later that year issued the encyclical “Ubi arcano,” calling for “the
peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ.”
The program of his pontificate was an attempt to re‑form the modern world along
the principles of Jesus Christ. Pius later wrote on Christian marriage,
education, the priesthood, various treatises on the spiritual life, a
condemnation of communism, and four condemnations of persecutors of the Church
in France, Mexico, Spain, and Germany. But his most beloved and well known
encyclical is surely Quas primas, of 1925, in which he established this
feast of Christ the King.
Christ is King, Pius tells us, because
of “highest degree of excellence, by which He surpasses all created things.” He
is said to reign in our minds by virtue of His Truth, in our wills because He
informs our wills with His “grace and inspiration,” and in our hearts because of
“His love which surpasses knowledge.” Christ has acquired His kingdom not by
force or extortion, but by His essence and nature, for He is God who became man
in the hypostatic union.
Pope Pius abundantly cites the
references to the Messiah’s kingship in the Old and New Testaments, admitting
that while Christ’s kingship is “not of this world,” it certainly is and should
be in this world. As King, Christ takes nothing from us,
allows us to administer our own property and affairs, and commands only that we
make that administration subject to Christian principles of morality and
Peoples and nations and the rulers of
nations are far better off under their divine King. Pope Pius wrote:
If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to
promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not
neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ.
What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of
public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at
the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from
political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very
basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the
distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is
that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a
secure and solid foundation."
19. When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ
is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty,
well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests
the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it
ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience.
This last point is something I mentioned
to you in my last two sermons—the legitimacy of government and the duty of
citizens to obey their government is absolutely dependent on governments’ close
conformity with the Laws of God.
The rule of Christ the King is something
that we must urge upon our rulers and something that we should urge upon society
at large with our words and our good example.
I am going to close now with a few of
the words from the Preface of today’s Mass—one of our most beautiful liturgical
compositions—a treasure that points to the benefits of seeking “The Peace of
Christ in the Kingdom of Christ”:
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we
should, in all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee O Holy Lord,
Father Almighty and everlasting God. Who with the oil of gladness hast
anointed Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as eternal high
priest and universal King; that offering Himself on the altar of the Cross
as an immaculate victim and peace offering, He might complete the mysteries
of human redemption; and all creation being made subject to His dominion, He
might deliver us into the hands of Thine infinite Majesty, a kingdom eternal
and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.