Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost AD 2005
(Fifth Sunday remaining after Epiphany)

“May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    Last week we celebrated the Sunday of Christ the King, but, because of Hurricane Wilma, I was unable to say very much about that great feast, and promised that I would do so today.  The feast is of relatively modern origin, at least as things go in our two thousand year old Catholic Church.  It was instituted by the very learned and saintly Pope Pius XI, who served as Pope between the two great wars of the twentieth century.[2]  Having served as a papal diplomat he was well acquainted with the awful devastation brought about by World War I and supremely aware of the disaster that another such war could bring to mankind.  When he was elected Pope in 1922 he made the slogan of his papal reign: “The peace of Christ in the reign of Christ.”  And he made it the business of his pontificate to attempt the restoration of Christian principles to those aspects of life where they had so greatly suffered since the seventeenth century.  He wrote splendid encyclicals on the role of Christ and Christianity in education, marriage, the priesthood, and in the social aspects of capital and labor.  He wrote three encyclicals condemning the totalitarian political movements of the day:  the Nazism of Germany, atheistic Communism, and the persecution by Freemasonry in Mexico.

    In all of Pope Pius’ writings we find the underlying theme of the necessary kingship and reign of Christ over the affairs of mankind.  He established the feast of Christ the King, so that this teaching would “reach not only the few and the learned,” who read encyclicals, but would reach each and every Catholic who fulfills his obligation on the last Sunday of every October, where its position in the liturgical year (before the feast of All Saints) would signify its reference to the Kingdom of Christ on earth.[3]

    In last week’s Gospel, our Lord told us that His “Kingdom is not of this world,” but nonetheless, “He is a King,” and “That is why He was born, and came into the world to bear witness to the truth.”[4]  As you heard last week, Christ is not the kind of king who goes around collecting taxes, or waving a sword to conquer people in order to make them his subjects.  As Pope Pius put it:

    He is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind.

    He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors.

    He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his "charity which exceedeth all knowledge." And his mercy and kindness which draw all men to him....[5]

    Our Lord’s Kingdom, though “not of this world,” must begin here in this world.  The reign of Christ is now—not at some future time.  The thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in the Apocalypse is the reign of Christ in His Church, the society of those who have been resurrected from spiritual death through Baptism.[6]   It is primarily a spiritual kingdom, preparing us for Judgment day and eternal life with Christ “of Whose kingdom there shall be no end,” as we profess in the Creed.  Again, quoting Pope Pius:

    The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration.

    This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.[7]

    The kingdom of Christ is spiritual, but Pope Pius XI clearly envisioned that a return to Christ’s kingdom on earth would restore much of the peace of earlier times when Western Civilization still could be called “Christendom.”  To be sure, there have always been wars, even when the Church flourished so greatly in the middle ages.  But the reign of Christ had a moderating effect that lasted up until the American Civil War, when, for the first time, we saw general war being made on non-combatants and the civilian population.

    In medieval history we refer to the “peace of the Church” or the “truce of God” to describe that period around the tenth and eleventh centuries when warfare was greatly curtailed in France and the Empire.  By Church law it was forbidden to make war on lands possessed by the Church, pilgrims, merchants, peasants, women and the clergy, as well as livestock and farm equipment.  Battle was forbidden on Sundays, vigils, and feast days—sometimes all week, and for the entire period of Advent and Lent.[8]  Such an arrangement would certainly be more beneficial than any of the practices of modern war!

    Certainly, peace in the world is something for which we all ought to yearn and pray.  It is unlikely that such a thing can ever take place without the blessings of Almighty God on those who must live in this world.

Still, there is a higher good, even than peace in this world—the good of eternal life in the unending Kingdom of God in Heaven.    Let me close with the words of Pope Pius:

    It is Our fervent desire ... that those who are outside the fold may seek after and accept the sweet yoke of Christ, and that we, who by the mercy of God are of the household of the faith, may bear that yoke, not as a burden but with joy, with love, with devotion;  that having lived our lives in accordance with the laws of God's kingdom, we may receive full measure of good fruit, and counted by Christ good and faithful servants, we may be rendered partakers of eternal bliss and glory with him in his heavenly kingdom.[9]



[1]   Epistle:  Colossians iii: 12-17

[2]   6 February 1922—10 February 1939

[3]   Cf.  Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, 11 December 1925, 21 and 29 (citations depend upon translation).

[4]   Cf. Gospel of the Feast of Christ the King, John xviii: 33-37.

[5]   Quas primas 7

[6]   Cf. Apocalypse xx;  Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book XX, Chapter 6-7

[7]   Quas primas 15.

[8]   Norman F. Cantor, Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, s.v. “Peace of God; Truce of God” p. 341.

[9]   Quas primas 33.


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