Thus the Empire of Our Redeemer Embraces All Men
On November 23 in this year of Our Lord 2014, we once again celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. More formally known as the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, this is the day that closes the liturgical year of the Catholic Church and prepares us for the upcoming season of Advent, in which we anticipate the arrival of Jesus Christ as El Niño; the Christ Child born to us on Christmas Day for the purpose of bringing salvation to the world. It is fitting, then, as we anticipate this alpha, this beginning of Jesus' entry into our reality as the king so promised by the ancient prophets, that we do so in solemn recognition of the omega; the truth that His humble birth in a manger portends His rise to the pinnacle of power both temporal and eternal. And that is the point of this month's column: that this power is indeed temporal as well as eternal, and that this aspect of His kingship has come to be largely ignored in our day and age.
Let us begin by taking a look at the reckoning of time in the first sentence above by use of what is now considered the quaint and inappropriate expression, "year of Our Lord." As a student of ancient history many years ago, I was taught to reckon time by use of the two then commonly accepted abbreviations "B.C." and "A.D.". The former simply stood for "Before Christ" and was used to measure those years before the latter, which was rendered in its original Latin as "anno domini," which translates "in the year of the Lord," or a little less self-consciously as "in the year of Our Lord." The expression anno domini was, in turn, an abbreviation itself for the longer formula, "Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi," which is translated, "In the year of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
It is tempting at this point to digress into a history of the calendar and the role the Catholic Church has played in determining how the world reckons time, but that is not the purpose here. Suffice it to point out that through the foresight of Pope Gregory XIII, the world was given a workable calendar that still functions well for us on a global basis to this day, and, that up until very recent times, it was unabashedly a Christian calendar that assumed the advent of the Lord into our world as an unassailable fact: a fact to which time itself could be irrevocably anchored. Indeed, the truth of this remains, but the person of Christ has since been removed by changing these historical designations of time measurement to the more generic equivalents of "Before the Common Era" (B.C.E.), and the "Common Era" (C.E.). The reason for doing this was to make these designations more neutral and more inclusive of non-Christian peoples and, therefore, more "appropriate."
To Popes such as Leo XIII and Pius XI, the dominion of Christ over all men is such that true inclusiveness means recognition of the fact that all are subject to Him regardless of whether or not their circumstances make them consciously aware of this deeper truth of their existence. Pope Leo stated his view on this matter this way in his 1899 encyclical on Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Annum Sacrum: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ." Pope Pius XI, in turn, had this to say in his encyclical of 1925, Quas Primas: "It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. ... Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men."
It was in Quas Primas that Pius XI established the Feast of Christ the King and, in doing so, he cites the words of Pope Leo XIII in Annum Sacrum as quoted above. The greater truth for these Holy Fathers was simply that all persons are Catholic, and it is the mission of the Church to evangelize the faith in such a way that they who are so far unaware of this come to realize it. This is the missionary zeal that characterized the "old" evangelization, and it is something the new could certainly take from it. What would make no sense to them is that the world would come to recognize and order time by Christ and then, as if it was truly possible to do so, remove Him from this very reckoning so as to not offend the sensitivities of those who reject Him.
In my classes at the ostensibly Catholic Assumption University master’s program in Saginaw some years ago, I was publicly castigated in class for consciously using the decidedly Catholic expressions of "B.C." and "A.D." in my works. I was instructed that I was to use the more accepted, and acceptable, "B.C.E" and "C.E." because it was the scholarly convention, and so as to not "offend" anyone with those earlier designations which referred directly to Christ. And my instructor, a Catholic nun, found no humor in it at all when I quoted the Master in Matthew 11:6, "And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." The humor in this may well have been lost on Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI as well, but they certainly would have grasped the gravity inherent in a Catholic religious deeming the reckoning of time in Christ as "inappropriate." And that was the expression she used: "inappropriate."
Now the point to all of this is that when we cease to think in terms of life on earth ordered in time according to when Jesus was physically present with us (and the Church has done this in some fashion from the beginning until this system was perfected in the reign of Pope Gregory XIII), then it is symptomatic of a time in which Christ's reign as king on earth has come to be viewed as merely metaphorical rather than as a concrete and temporal reality. This in turn indicts the Lord of the Tabernacle, the Real Presence, as at best symbolic, and, at worst, an outright fraud. It then takes the Precious Truth of the Catholic Faith and reduces it to merely another false religion among the many. It not only allows but encourages secularism to rise to the pinnacle of power and to subdue the will of God in Jesus Christ, as witnessed at the Cross, by negating its once assumed historical reality. Atheism governs, and faith becomes subservient to it, and is tolerated only as long as it proves politically expedient. As even lip service to this faith ceases to be necessary to secure and hold political power, the religious freedom that tolerates it is gradually removed, and the ascent of the anti-Christ state becomes complete. The world we live in today is perilously close to, and rapidly approaching, this final condition. And these words which follow, from Paragraph 24 of Quas Primas, come down to us from Pope Pius XI in 1925 with the haunting ring of prophetic truth:
"If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society. We refer to the plague of anti-clericalism, its errors and impious activities. This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences."
If they did this in the world of 1925 in which the wood was much more green, what shall they do going forward from our time in which it is has become most assuredly much more dry? As the rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ grows to embrace evermore the passing of the holy innocents to Moloch through the fire of abortion, the mockery of holy matrimony and the family by the normalizing of all manner of sexual deviancy, and the affliction of the poor in the name of both capital improvement and ecological reclamation, then so we may expect the deplorable consequences thus produced to multiply to apocalyptic proportion. And the lesson of Revelation is that Our Lord, thus cast from His earthly throne by those who so indulge in impiety and impose the neglect of God, will return of His own volition and reclaim it. Therefore, the Church still faithful would do well to lift her voice in the Song of the Lamb this November the 23rd, for the temple of the tent of witness stands opened in heaven, and the ensuing plagues of Revelation 15 are well-nigh upon us. And so we sing:
"Great and wonderful are thy deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are thy ways,
O King of the ages!
Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord?
For thou alone art holy.
All nations shall come and worship thee,
for thy judgments have been revealed."
Readers of Christian Democracy are well aware of the fact that the Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI are the authors of the two seminal works defining Catholic social teaching in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. The former warned of the dangers inherent in the rise of the godless nation state, and of the ensuing and devastating effects to Christian society, to the family, and to the political and economic liberty of individuals -- particularly the poor. The latter revisited this document forty years later, and called for a reconstruction of the social order that is based upon the increasing imposition of abuses on the vulnerable by the privileged, as so previously defined. In reading these documents today we see that, lured by a superficial materialism, and through a degenerative hedonism portrayed as "liberation," the world has continued to decline into a state of increasing moral confusion, exacerbated economic disparity, and violent rebellion against nebulous and impervious oppressors. The clear and present danger is that this will continue only until the rising atheism, and the insanity of an increasingly narcissistic age, convinces those with access to the tools of mass destruction that widespread genocide is the solution to this situation.
That Catholic social teaching, in practical and widespread application, and more today than ever, provides the much needed remedy to these social ills of the world is the premise of Christian Democracy. That this is only possible in a world consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and in which He is recognized, worshiped and obeyed as the King of all men, is the larger context that makes this feasible. This is the context presented in Annum Sacrum and Quas Primas, and it is why we must read and take to heart these documents if we are to properly understand and implement the teachings of Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. Catholic social teaching cannot live and breathe in the vacuum of the corrupt and anti-Christ human political system, but it flourishes when Christ is King and His presence recognized in the real and temporal way envisioned by Pope Leo XIII, and as celebrated by Pope Pius XI. Given the post-modern world's anti-clericalism, spiritual ignorance, and outright embrace of evil, this requires a revolution of the human spirit of vast and staggering proportion, and a reordering of society unprecedented since the Church emerged from the catacombs and exorcised the very pagan soul of Rome. Indeed, what these Holy Fathers were calling for was the revival of, and completion of, this very revolution on a global basis, and a century later the need has only grown that much greater.
In the United States it is particularly easy to claim the supposed wisdom inherent in the forced separation of church and state as grounds for limiting the political debate to the earthly and the mundane and in so doing, to ignore and deny the truth of a higher power that controls our destiny from on high. This was, in fact, the very idea behind the Deism of our founders. Extended into our time, it has become politically incorrect to speak publicly of Jesus Christ in any meaningful way at all, let alone as possessing an active role -- and the supreme role -- in human governance. It has become easy to limit the discussion of social justice and politics in such a way so as to eliminate the reality of a higher kingship from the discussion by simply removing Our Lord from history and denying His divinity, even though our very reckoning of time is measured by counting the years from His first appearance until His next.
The Gospel according to St. Matthew closes with these words: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
Should this age close with these tasks undone; should the Day of the Lord be at hand, and should we fail in achieving the justice and mercy among the least of these in our midst as the Lord Himself so commanded, and as Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI so instructed, then woe be to we who have so failed. If the Lord must come of His own volition and reclaim the authority on earth that has been given to him, then woe be to us if it is: thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men.
Phil is the owner of the news portal Radio New Jerusalem.
All Biblical quotes from The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.