WDTPRS – Christ the King (2002MR): The world will be consumed in fire

We approach the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

In the post-Conciliar calendar of the Roman Church this is the Solemnity of Christ the King.  In the older calendar, this is celebrated (with a rather different meaning!) at the end of October.

Each year Holy Church presents to us the history of salvation, from Creation to the Lord’s Coming (the First and also the Final).

Sunday’s Solemnity is an anticipation of the season of Advent, which  focuses on the different ways in which the Lord comes to us, especially in the Second Coming.

At this time of year (November) we are also considering the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.   We are praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory in a special way this month.

The Solemnity of Christ the King brings to our attention the fact that the Lord is coming precisely as King and Judge not merely as friend or brother or favorite role-model.

In the great Dies Irae prayed at Requiem Masses for so long (and still today), Christ is identified as “King of Fearful Majesty” and “Just Judge”.

Consider today’s feast in light of what we read in 2 Peter 3: 10-12:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire!”

Not exactly hugs and fluffy lambs for everyone.

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.

COLLECT – (2002MR):

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui in dilecto Filio tuo, universorum Rege, omnia instaurare voluisti, concede propitius, ut tota creatura, a servitute liberata, tuae maiestati deserviat ac te sine fine collaudet.

While this Collect is of new composition for the Novus Ordo, it is similar to what was in the 1962 Missale Romanum for this feast with variations in the second part: Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui dilecto Filio tuo universorum Rege, omnia instaurare voluisti: concede propitius; ut cunctae familiae gentium, peccati vulnere disgregatae, eius suavissimo subdantur imperio… “so that all the families of peoples, torn apart by the wound of sin, may be subject to His most gentle rule.”  That’s a different message by far.  Christ isn’t just the eschatological King who will reign over all things at the end of the World.  He is King here and now, of all peoples and nations… now.

Today’s Collect demonstrates the theological shift in many of the Latin prayers in the Novus Ordo.

Universus is an adjective and universorum a neuter plural, “all things.”  Since we have another “all things” in omnia I will make universorum into “the whole universe.”  Our Latin ears perk up when we hear compound verbs (verbs with an attached preposition like sub or de or cvm).

In our own copies of A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews’ edition of Freund’s Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. – (aka Lewis & Short or L&S) we find that de-servio expands the meaning of servio to mean “serve zealously, be devoted to, subject to.”  Col-laudo, more emphatic than simple laudo, means “to praise or commend very much, extol highly.”

You veterans of WDTPRS know how maiestas is synonymous with gloria which in early Latin writers such as Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose and in early liturgical texts, the equivalent of biblical Greek doxa and Hebrew kabod.   This “glory” and “majesty” is God’s own transforming power, a sharing of His life, that transforms us into what He is in an everlasting “deification”.

Instauro is a wonderful word which deserves more attention: “to renew, repeat, celebrate anew; to repair, restore; to erect, make”.  It is synonymous with renovo.  Etymologically instauro is related to Greek stauros. Turning to a different L&S, the immensely valuable Liddell & Scott Greek Dictionary, we find that stauros is “an upright pale or stake.”   Stauros is the word used in the Greek New Testament for the Cross of Jesus.  Also the word immediately makes us think not only of the motto on the coat-of-arms of Pope St. Pius X, but also the origin of that motto Ephesians 1:10: “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:9-10 RSV).  There have been, by the way, some changes in the Latin texts of this passage.  The older Vulgate says “instaurare omnia in Christo” while the New Vulgate says “recapitulare omnia in Christo”.

Recapitulare is related to Latin caput (“head”) and was deemed by the scholars behind the New Vulgate as a better translation of the Greek anakephalaioô, “to sum up the argument.”  This harks to the headship of Christ over the Body of the Church and expresses that He is the Final Statement, the Conclusion of All Things.  At any rate, in 1925 and in the 1960’s when the older version of Vulgate was in use, the Collect had instaurare and not recapitulare.

Why all this about recapitulare?

The phrase, “renew/reinstate all things in Christ” points to the Kingship of Jesus.  In everything that Jesus said or did in His earthly life, He was actively drawing all things and peoples to Himself.

In the time to come, when His Majesty the King returns in gloria and maiestas this act of drawing-to-Himself (cf. John 12:32) will culminate in the exaltation of all creation in a perfect unending paean of praise.  In the meantime, by virtue of baptism and our integration into Christus Venturus (Christ About-To-Come), we all share in His three-fold office of priest, prophet, and also king.  We have the duty to proclaim His Kingship by all that we say and do.  We are to offer all our good works back to Him for the sake of His glory and the expectation of His Coming.  This glorious restoration (instaurare) is possible only through the Lord’s Cross (Greek stauros).  The Cross is found subtly in the midst of this Collect, where it is revealed as the pivot point of all creation (creatura).


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 objective of our participation in the Church’s sacred rites is to praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and give God glory.  This is what we owe by the virtue of religion.

Liturgical and Biblical Latin is rich with words and phrases which exalt and express praise of God.  In fact, the concepts of “glory” and “majesty” are nearly interchangeable in this light.  We, on the one hand, render up honor and glory to God in a way external to God.  On the other hand, glory and majesty are also divine attributes which we in no way give Him, which He has – or rather is – in Himself by His nature.

When we come into His presence, even in the contact we have with Him through the Church’s sacred mysteries, His divine attribute of splendor or glory or majesty, whatever you will, has the power to transform us.  His majestic glory changes us.  This MYSTERY changes us.  So, it is right to translate these lofty sounding attributions for God when we raise our voices in the Church’s official cult.


Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe. May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you.


Almighty ever-living God, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. “In the great Dies Irae prayed at Requiem Masses for so long (and still today), Christ is identified as “King of Fearful Majesty” and “Just Judge”.”

    It may not be well-known that in the (official Latin) Liturgia Horarum the Dies Irae is listed as the hymn for the major Hours for the weekdays of the last week of Ordinary Time–the first third is the hymn for the Office of Readings each day, the middle third for Lauds, and the final third for daily Vespers. Thereby, in effect, carrying the theme of the four last things throughout this last week of the Church year.

  2. Maltese says:

    Our Lady of Akita–which was officially approved by the then local Bishop, and even Cardinal Ratzinger–said that, “if men don’t improve their ways” fire would fall, sparing neither bishops nor faithful, and that the living would envy the dead.

    I think we should pay attention to messages from Our Lady, while not living our lives in fear. The greatest thing to remember is that we all die, and therefore the “end of the world” comes to all of us. Therefore, we should frequent the Sacraments and be prepared.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    Mr. Edwards:

    I was just about to post something similar. This might be useful for those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours this coming week:


  4. Jack Orlando says:

    Henry Edwards and Geoffrey I thank for their assistance with the Liturgy of the Hours.

    Today is the only day when I prefer the OF calendar to the EF. Christ the King dovetails nicely with Advent, and the end of the liturgical year reminds us of the end of time. Also November itself stresses the end of our earthly lives and the Four Last Things, as Fr Z mentioned, and it is fitting that Christ the King be part of it, for His Kingdom comes into its fullness and the end of time. Yet I don’t deny there may be good reasons for Christ the King’s place in the EF calendar. I would welcome Fr Z’s elaboration of “(with a rather different meaning!)”.

  5. bwfackler says:

    Jack Orlando
    Michael Davies has a nice short article describing the different meaning. http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/Archives/archive-christ_the_king.htm

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    Relying on my 1962 St. Joseph Daily Missal and my current (2011) St. Paul Daily Misssal (my Latin being prectically non-existant) I sought to compare the various propers and found that, in large part the translations are nearly identical:

    The Introit/Entrance Antiphon Apoc./Rev. 5,12;1,6

    The Collect as noted by Fr. Z with its emaphasis now highlighting Our Lord’s conquest of the world by his saving sacrifice.

    The EF Epistle Col. 1, 12-20 is read in Year C of the OF

    The EF Gospel Jn 18, 33-37 is read in Year B (celebrated this year) of the OF

    The Secret/Prayer over the Offerings – Mostly the same, although the 1962 translation refers to “He Whom we immolate by these present sacrifices” while the 2011 OF offers “the sacrifice”.

    The Prefaces track as do the Communion Anitphons.

    The 2011 Postcommunion speaks of “glorying in obedience to the commands of Christ the King of the Universe” while the 1962 translation refers to “we who glory in our warfare under the banners of Christ our King”.

    Perhaps the difference in tone struck by the Postcommunion prayers is what Fr. Z means. The EF seems to imply that we are fighting to win the Kingdom for Our Lord while the OF seems to imply that our task is to maintain securely the victory already won, i.e. the difference between an army in combat versus an occupying and pacifying army. To the Tridentine Fathers beset by heresy in the heart of the Catholic world the extent (but not the finality) of Our Lord’s victory could have seemed threatened.

  7. Jack Orlando says:

    bwfackler I thank, yet his link to the view of Michael Davies doesn’t answer my question. It would seem that the teaching of “the social Kingship of Christ” could just as well be celebrated on the last Sunday. To say nothing of the fact that such a teaching is taught nowhere by Our Lord, nowhere by Sts Peter and Paul, and is thus not New Testimental; and it might well be Semi-Pelegian. I fear that Davies’ view looks to me like a Catholic retread of the Christian Reconstructionism of Rushdoony, of Dominionism, and of the Kingdom Now Theology – all Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestant. Catholics instead would do well to look at Chapter 19 of St. Augustine’s City of God

    I thank Mr. Plourde, who has done a better job, although he has not said what, if anything, is wrong with Christ the King coming as the last Sunday. The establishing of Christ the King and the placing as the last Sunday in October was done in 1925, only 90 years ago – and so hardly an inveterate tradition. What Mr. Plourde has done is to say that the prayers of the OF might need some correction.

  8. The Cobbler says:

    For some reason when I read the words “the world will be consumed by fire” I suddenly thought of the meme with Grumpy Cat saying, “Good.”

    I hadn’t realized my sense of humour was in one of its dark phases again.

  9. bombermac says:

    Jack Orlando, I’m certainly no expert or authority on the matter, but I thought I might take a stab at your question (while admitting up front that I don’t think I’m quite answering it, either :)

    I’ve heard a couple of sermons on the institution of the Feast of Christ the King, and I’ve read a bit here and there as well, and it all runs together a bit, so forgive me for my inability to provide sources. As I understand it however, when Pope Pius XI released the encyclical Quas Primas to the world, he was influenced in part by the persecution of Mexican Catholics immediately preceding the Cristero War. The State’s oppression of Catholicism was an attack on the social kingship of Christ. The Cristeros adopted the cry, Viva Cristo Rey (Long live Christ the King); I’m not sure if their cry was influenced by Quas Primas or the other way around, but either way it was a repudiation of this oppression as they loudly proclaimed Christ King of the World in the present day.

    This focus of Christ’s kingship (that He is our present-day King in the world) is assisted by the placement of the feast just before the Feast of All Saints : first we celebrate Christ the King, and then we celebrate His heavenly subjects, inspiring us to serve Him in the here and now that we might join His Saints in serving Him in heaven.

    As you’ve observed, the focus of the feast seems to be different by placing it immediately before the First Sunday of Advent, with the emphasis more on Christ’s kingship at the end of time. I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with this, but it does convey a different meaning (or at least it stresses a different dimension of Christ’s kingship). And, in fairness, the Last Sunday After Pentecost (EF calendar) already covers this fairly well, with “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty” at the end of time (from the Gospel of Matthew).

  10. Jack Orlando says:

    bombermac I thank for answering my question by providing some historical context for 1925 and by showing how putting Christ the King on the Last Sunday of the OF built on the emphasis in the Gospel of the 24th Sunday after Pentecost of the EF. Indeed, it expands this emphasis which was under emphasized; and the reason for the lack of an apocalyptic emphasis on the last Sunday of the EF and in 1925 is this:

    There have been considerable advances in theology, patristics, and in scriptural studies since 1925, when the apocalyptic and eschatology were mostly not emphasized, and most Christians thought (and still think) that it’s ALL about going to Heaven. Well, the New Testament has a few remarks, but not much, about going to Heaven, but it has a great deal to say about about the Parousia and the Eschaton, — the 2nd Coming, the Last Judgment, the Resurrection of the Dead, The Glorious Body awarded to the Just, and the fulfillment of the Kingdom. The recovery of serious Bible scholarship among Catholics, beginning in the 1950s, and Patristics in the 1920s (even in the 1840s), did lead, in turn, to the recovery of the Parousia, to say nothing about the apocalyptic feeling after three world wars and numerous tyrannical regimes, terrorism, and atrocities. Thus it makes sense to make the last Sunday in the liturgical year a time to recall the end of time itself, and the time when the Kingdom of God arrives in fullness, with its King. Let Catholics not be ignorant Sacred Scripture (and Patristics)!

    I think the emphasis that bombermac wishes is done fairly well in the new date of Christ the King. I see no need that it be connected to All Saints.

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