Friday, November 1, 2013

The Royal Office

Why did Pius XI of happy memory appoint the last Sunday of October to be the Feast of the Kingship of Christ? He tells us in his encyclical: it is the Sunday before All Saints day. I recalled this when reading Matins of All Saints this morning, since the Invitatory for All Saints is:
Regem regum Dóminum veníte adorémus: * Quia ipse est coróna Sanctórum ómnium.
(The Lord, the King of kings, come let us worship: * For He is the crown of all the Saints.)
Compare this to the Invitatory of Christus Rex:
Jesum Christum, Regem regum: * Veníte, adorémus.
(Jesus Christ, the King of kings: * Come, let us worship.)
Just so, in the Byzantine Office, likewise inspired by Psalm 94, the cry resounds before reading the Psalter at each Hour:
O come let us worship and bow down to the King our God.
O come let us worship and bow down to Christ the King our God.
O come let us worship and bow down to Christ Himself the King and our God.
Most fittingly, before we celebrate the combined feast of all the triumphant citizens of the heavenly realm, the celestial kingdom, we first worship Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords: this seems to be the motive behind Pius XI's choice of the last Sunday in October for the new feast he instituted. 

On all feasts, singing Te Deum we confess that Tu Rex gloriæ, Christe – Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.

From His royal office derives our share therein, as St Leo the Great declaims at Christmas: Agnoscere, o Christiane, dignitatem tuam! – O Christian, know thy dignity! For we are sons and daughters of the Most High King, and have in prospect a heavenly inheritance: once we have conquered, by the grace of His conquest, we shall sit with Him on His and His Father's throne.

Hence the last of the blessings for Matins of nine lessons is:
Ad societatem civium supernorum perducat nos Rex Angelorum. Amen.
(To the company of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us. Amen.)
Of course, every day in the Roman Breviary, we salute Christ the King at Prime, when praying the following prayer:
Dirigere et sanctificare, regere et gubernare dignáre, Dómine Deus, Rex cæli et terræ, hódie corda et córpora nostra, sensus, sermónes et actus nostros in lege tua, et in opéribus mandatórum tuórum: ut hic et in ætérnum, te auxiliante, salvi et liberi esse mereámur, Salvátor mundi: Qui vivis et regnas in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen. 
(Deign to direct and sanctify, rule and govern, Lord God, King of heaven and earth, today our hearts and bodies, our senses, words and actions, in Thy law and in the works of Thy commandments: that here and in eternity, Thou assisting, we may merit to be saved and set free, O Saviour of the world: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.)
This short prayer to do God's will, addressed to the royal Son of God, is as it were a daily reconsecration of our selves, our souls and bodies, to Christ the King.

The transfer of this feast in the modern Roman Rite to the last Sunday before Advent has had the unfortunate effect of spiritualising away the social reign of Christ, making it but a private devotion to an eschatological hope – whereas it ought be a foretaste here and now of, and a spur to work to bring about imperfectly here below, what is ever perfect: since as every Collect sings, with His Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, He liveth and reigneth world without end.

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