Happy Feast of Christ the King of the Universe!
Pope Pius XI initiated this feast in 1925 in response to the rise of secularism and a waning faith in Christ as a king. As we know, Jesus was called the Christ, the anointed one and ruler who would ultimately free the Jewish people from the hands of Roman rule. Pius XI in the early 1900s could see nationalism and secularism on the rise and faith in Christ’s ‘reign’ waning, so he instituted this feast. (The feast of Christ the King was originally celebrated on the last Sunday in October, but later changed to the Sunday before Advent.) May Christ reign on the throne of our minds and heart…this was his intention.
Perhaps uncomfortable to ask, but did it work? Did nationalism die out? Did secularism fade? I think you can look at history from 1925 until now and decide for yourself. There’s plenty of evidence to prove either side. I posit no answer. I do hear Christmas songs earlier. Stores put out Christmas decorations in early October, and coffee shops are quick to offer holiday drinks. As people balk at this premature celebration and commercializing, I feel alone in thinking that it’s actually okay. Is secular and sacred so different? That which is of this world is definitively secular, but can it not at the same time be sacred? Can we play pretend and not be polemic for a moment? I don’t feel guilty bringing tidings of comfort and joy to people in November.
Around this time of year, I also catch the harsh sounds of the ‘war on Christmas’ and see adamant Facebook postings that demand we say ‘Merry Christmas’ to the exclusion of any other greeting. My heart weeps as I think of ignoring that our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate the rededication of their temple at Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) and their retention of the faith from Roman conquest. Coming together to bring light to the darkness… didn’t a certain infant come to do the same thing? African Americans in 1965 instituted Kwanzaa (literally ‘first fruits’) to reconnect with their roots and build upon community in reaction to their suppression. Guests often pass a community cup in remembrance of their heritage and as a symbol of unity. Is the idea of unity and celebrating community in opposition to the Christmas message of the birth of the Prince of Peace? If it is, help me figure that one out.
So, my apologies, but Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Celebrate Boxing Day? Great! Just Happy Day! We can all celebrate these holidays; literally, these days are all holy. They are holy in that we remember our togetherness as a human race. We can find peace, light from the darkness, and remember our togetherness. Is there anything more sacred?
So, back to the question… Did instituting the feast of Christ the King work? Did nationalism and secularism fall? Hopefully we’re all too busy embracing one another and calling each other friend to even bother answering these questions.