WDTPRS: Christ the King (1962 Missale Romanum)

In the post-Conciliar, Novus Ordo calendar, the Solemnity of Christ the King is the last Sunday of the liturgical year, just before Advent begins.  In the traditional Roman calendar it falls on the last Sunday of October.  The feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, as Pius Parsch says in The Church’s Year of Grace, to “renew in the minds and hearts of the faithful the ancient concept of Christ as divine King who, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, will return at the end of time in might and majesty.”  It also falls during October, a month of celebration by Communists, who impose radical atheistic materialism.  The different editions of the Missale Romanum give different emphases to this feast, though both look to the end times and the definitive coming of Christ’s Kingdom.

Since all of the prayers are of relatively modern origin, those for the older, traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo both written in the 20th century, we can dispense this week with abstruse references to 9th century sacramentaries.  I am sure you will miss them.

This week we can do something a little different.  I want to put the three main orations of the older, traditional Missale Romanum along with those of the so-called Novus Ordo.  We will forsake the Latin this time as well as vocabulary from the never to be neglected Lewis & Short Dictionary.  Since the1973 obsolete ICEL versions don’t convey what the Latin really says, I will dig into the WDTPRS archive for our own slavishly literal renderings of the prayers.  For the translations of the older prayers, we can use the version in the beautifully bound hand missal from Baronius Press, The Daily Missal and Liturgical Manual (2007).

What is the point of this exercise?  Let’s see what theological changes were made to the feast by the reformers.  How we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe: change the prayer and you change the belief.

Baronius Press:
Almighty and everlasting God,
who in Thy beloved Son,
the King of the whole world,
hast willed to restore all things,
mercifully grant that all the families of nations
now kept apart by the wound of sin,
may be brought under the sweet yoke of His rule.

In this Collect Christ is King “of the whole world” (Latin: universorum Rex) and the goal is that all nations be brought under His “yoke”, His rule.  The “yoke” from the Latin word iugum, is a symbol of subjugation. The ancient Romans made conquered armies pass under a yoke as a sign of their status.

Almighty eternal God,
who desired to renew all things
in Your beloved Son, the King of the universe,
graciously grant
that the whole of creation, having been freed from servitude,
may zealously serve Your majesty and praise You greatly without end.

The first part of the prayer is the same as the older version, as you can see even from the different translations.  In the second part, however, instead of a reference to “nations”, we hear of “the whole of creation”.  Instead of “nations” being subjected to the King, “creation” is freed from the bondage caused by the Fall and sin.  In the older prayer there is an emphasis on this world, probably because of the rise of atheistic Communism.  In a sense, the older prayer has strong political overtones. The newer prayer has in mind the Prince of this world, the Enemy who dominates material creation until the end times, when Christ will return.  Both prayer have an eschatological vector to them, however.  They both aim at the ultimate triumph of Christ.

Baronius Press:
O Lord, we offer Thee the Victim of man’s redemption:
grant, we beseech Thee, that Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord,
Whom we are immolating in this sacrifice,
may Himself bestow on all nations the gifts of unity and peace.

Once again we see the emphases on “nations”, meaning not just the Gentiles, or non-Jews, but on the actual nations of the earth.   Furthermore, the Latin has “nations” capitalized, “Gentes”.

O Lord, offering to You the victim sacrifice of the reconciliation of humanity,
we are praying submissively that Your Son Himself
will grant all peoples the gifts of unity and of peace.

Again, the first part of the prayer is same as the older.  In the Latin there are minor changes, but it is effectively the same.  The second part, however, shows the theological change desired by the snipping and pasting experts of Fr. Bugnini’s Consilium.  In the older prayer there is an explicit appeal to “sacrifice” with also a strong verb “immolate”.  This sacrificial language was removed from the newer prayer.  But this prayer retains the reference “nations” (gentes).

Baronius Press:
We have received the food of immortality and beg, Lord,
that we who are proud to fight under the banner of Christ our King,
may reign with Him for ever in His realm above.

There is clear military imagery and language.  We have a sense from this prayer that we are soldiers of a Militant Church under a great Captain and King.  We have been given food for the march to battle and glory.


Having been remodeled according to the nourishment of immortality,
we beseech You, O Lord,
that, we who glory in obeying the mandates of Christ the King of all things,
will be able to live with Him without end in the heavenly kingdom.

The first part of the prayer and the very last part are essentially the same as they were before the Conciliar reform.  The middle part eliminates the military images.  Instead of fighting through the victory and glory in heaven, we “live” (vivere) with Him in the heavenly kingdom.

All in all, it is hard to find fault with the newer prayers for the Solemnity of Christ the King, celebrated at the end of the liturgical year.  The change of placement of the feast and the change of the theology of the prayers probably reflect the soft approach to Communism adopted by Rome in those years, called ostpolitik, a conscious de-emphasis of triumphant language and imagery.  It is as if the writers of the newer prayers did not want to give the impression that Christ was to be accepted as Lord and King by political entities in this earthly existence.

412xNxChrist-the-Judge-Michelange.jpg.pagespeed.ic.xyMYheBBRvEach year Holy Church presents to us the history of salvation, from Creation to the Lord’s Coming (His First and also His Final Coming).  At this time of year, as we move in the Northern Hemisphere into the darkness of autumn and winter, as we head toward the end of the liturgical year, we more and more in the Church’s liturgy consider the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.   This feast reminds us that the Lord Jesus is indeed coming and that He will not come as “friend” or “brother” or “gentle shepherd” with hugs and a fluffy lamb on His shoulders.  He will come as King and our Judge.  The Dies Irae prayed at Requiem Masses identifies Christ as “King of Fearful Majesty” and “Just Judge”.  He is of course a King and Judge of mercy to those who submit themselves to His rule.

What will His coming be like?  If not with hugs and fluffy lambs, will it be all trumpets and angels with harps and banners?  Consider the description of His Coming in 2 Peter 3: 10-12 (Douay-Rheims):

“But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence and the elements shall be melted with heat and the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness? Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat?”

Christ Jesus will judge us all, dear friends, and submit all things to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).  Having excluded some from His presence, our King, Christ Jesus, will reign in majestic glory with the many who accepted His gifts and thereby merited eternal bliss.

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  1. Matt R says:

    The older placement of Christ the King is superior. Today focuses on Christ as king and its implications for this life, i.e. his social reign practically worked out by his grace through the members of the Church Militant. All Saints focuses on the Church Triumphant, and All Souls and the month of the Holy Souls focuses on the Church Suffering. That brings us back to Advent and his second coming in glory, to judge us and to bring the righteous into his kingdom which has no end. It has the more immediate eschatalogical emphasis in the new form, but it has less of a relationship to the beginning of November.

  2. The Cobbler says:

    I get the sense that the older prayers brought out the both-and of having both independent nationality on this earth and unity under the rule of Christ. The newer prayers are theologically sound in a Catholic context, but focus more exclusively on freedom and unity and mention obedience to Christ more generically/softly, such that taken out of context it might sound less like Catholic teaching (even though it’s technically compatible with it) and more acceptable to the average hippy.

    For better or for worse, that seems to be a couple of themes these days (the focus on freedom, e.g. the US bishops’ response to Obamacare telling them what to do, and the saying things that are inherently compatible with Catholic teaching but easily taken out of context)…

  3. majuscule says:

    I hope it is not out of place to post about our celebration of the Feast of Christ the King and Sovereign Priest on Sunday.

    The fourth Sunday of the month TLM that is held at the church of my youth (no longer my parish) fell this month on the Feast of Christ the King. Someone decided that we should make it a sung Mass instead of the regular low Mass. We formed a schola! Some of us are very new at Gregorian chant. But several also sing regularly at another church and they were able to sing the propers.

    This Mass is not a parish Mass. It is not announced in the church bulletin. It may have been announced on the local Catholic radio station but none of us heard it. So word spread mainly by email and word of mouth. The Mass is also at the inconvenient time of 5:30 in the evening. I was afraid there would be more people in the choir loft than in the pews.

    We had around 30 people in attendance as well as eight of us in the loft. We had five servers and an MC plus another priest in choir dress. I heard later that someone had optimistically been trying to get a third (very busy) priest to attend so that we could have a Solemn High Mass.

    We can’t attempt a sung Mass every month but we all agreed that we should do this again if a special feast day occurs on a fourth Sunday!

  4. jameeka says:

    I agree with Matt R and the Cobbler, maybe.
    The military image is still sound, whatever times, especially during Feast of Christ the King, especially with the Gospel reading of John–the interaction of Jesus Christ and Pilate. We Catholics do have to fight, we can’t just go along to get along, not now, maybe not ever in this life. At least some of the Mass prayers should reflect that, as we strive to focus on what happens as a result of these battles.
    These comparisons are instructive, Father Z.

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