The Royalty of Christ the King
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The idea of the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ has been present in the Church since the time of His life on earth. For example, it was He Himself who affirmed it when Pilate asked Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "It is as you say." (Luke 23:3)
Under various titles we find manifestations of Christ as King present in the Church from its beginning. There is a very old devotion that is called the Christ Pantocrator – the Greek word for Christ as Lord of all things. He is seated in majesty on a throne and surrounded by a circular rainbow or an elliptical halo.
The rainbow in Scripture symbolizes the alliance God made with man after the Flood; the elliptical halo is a symbol that was reserved to signify that He rose from death. From His throne on high He rules over all things. That is to say, He rules over the Church Triumphant and Church Militant, which He governs as King from His Ascension until the End Times, and, thenceforth, forever and ever. He is the ruler and lord of all things.
Christ deserves the title of King for two different reasons
This notion of Christ the King implies that He is not only the King of all things, but principally the King of every man. He deserves the title of King as the Incarnate Son of God and also as our Redeemer. These two rights of royalty He has over us are not identical. The first is, we can say, a right by birth; the second is a right by conquest.
The rainbow in paintings of Christ Pantocrator symbolizes God's alliance with man after the flood
He is our King by right of birth because there is a principle that establishes that when one being is immensely superior to another, the former acquires authority over the latter. Our Lord has an infinite superiority over us because he is a Man hypostatically united to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. By His Humanity as well as His Divinity, He is King and head of all mankind.
He is also King of the human genre as Redeemer because He redeemed mankind: He sacrificed Himself, immolating Himself on the Cross, and with His offering He saved mankind from Hell and opened the gates of Heaven. With His Blood He conquered all mankind. He acquired a royal right over all men. Hence the royalty of Christ Our Lord may be contemplated by considering Him either on His Throne or on His Cross because the two rights, while different, are nonetheless reversible.
King of the Church and King of the State
Mankind can be viewed in two types of societies: the spiritual society (the Church) and the temporal society (the State).
Our Lord is King of the spiritual society, the Catholic Church. He was her founder; He is the source of every grace and privilege; He established her precepts. He is the Head of this monarchical society, also called His Mystical Body. Therefore, He is the King of the Church in the proper and true sense of the word.
The Pope is King of the Church while he is the Vicar of Christ, the representative of Christ. The monarchical power the Pope exerts – the power of the keys – is a power that Christ has delegated to His Vicar.
An imprecise notion often spread among Catholics about the separation of Church and State affirms that the Church serves a spiritual end, while the State is turned toward a temporal goal. The Church leads people to Heaven; the State provides for people in their material lives so they can practice the virtues to reach Heaven.
Christ as King in the apse of St. Mark's Cathedral, Sicily
If one were to understand this separation and independence in its full extension, one might say that Our Lord is only King of the Church and that the State does not have a king. It also would imply that Catholic States do not need to recognize Our Lord as their King. These applications are false. The temporal States by their nature must have Our Lord as their King. Every State has the obligation to apply the laws of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and, if it does not, it is a State in some stage of revolt against its true King.
Is it possible to prove that Our Lord is the true King of the State? We have already done so. He has the right over all men because of His birth as the Incarnate Word and because of His conquest in the Redemption of mankind.
So, the State has to recognize the Catholic Church as the only true and official Church. It cannot allow proselytism of false religions, even though it recognizes them in their proper place in society – which is not one of relevance – and tolerates them when there is no other solution. For example: the Brazilian State should always avoid allowing the immigration of Protestants or Schismatics to our country. If there is no other solution, however, it may tolerate it. But it should avoid it as much as it possibly can, or it would be going against the royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
All the laws of the State should be inspired by the Church, as it used to be before the French Revolution. Indeed, at that time, when the Church would promulgate a law, it would also be applied in the State without the need to be ratified. Let us say the Church would establish new laws regarding births, burials, marriages or education: the State would automatically accept and apply them as well.
The religious authorities were the object of public respect and honor because they were the authorities of the true Church of the true God, who was the King of the State.
To demonstrate their respect for the Church, the State must organize all civil, cultural and artistic life in accordance with the law of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a consequence of the principle that Our Lord is the King of human societies.
These notions are very familiar to us, even though they have been generally forgotten today. Everything we hear either from the pulpits or progressivist authorities lead us not only to forget, but also to deny these principles. As a consequence, we Catholics are becoming accustomed to the wrong idea that the State should naturally be a-religious, having nothing to do with Our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, today we see the civil State constantly ignoring and denying Our Lord.
This is the principle of the royalty of Our Lord in the two spheres.
Practical reason to stress these truths
One thing is to believe in these truths theoretically; another is to live with a constant sense that they are true. Every time we see the royalty of Our Lord being denied in civil society, we must be aware of it, feel sorrow for it and be indignant over such a denial. This truth must be alive in us, as if it were a part of our skin. We should be sad upon witnessing the laicism that is invading every social activity, heading toward atheism. We should endure life in present day society as an exile because it denies the royalty of Jesus Christ and places everything upside-down. We should make a continuous internal protest against this situation.
Only with this state of mind can we be true soldiers of Christ the King.
For example, we go to a Brazilian courtroom and find a Crucifix on the wall. There are two ways to look at this. One is sentimental - a bit foolish – where the person thinks, “Ah, what a beautiful thing to have Our Lord there! He is exercising His influence over the judges and sentences. Look at that judge – what a good family man he must be, always looking to Christ on the cross! And the defendant - how many graces he must be receiving from Our Lord’s presence there… And consider its influence on those serious members of the jury… Ah, how beautiful it is to have Christ there!”
Italian courtrooms also retain the Crucifix, above, but the laws affront Our Lord
I believe that this is a sentimental and liberal way to avoid seeing reality and the true torment Christ is suffering by the denial of His royalty that is occurring there in that courtroom. The reality is actually quite different from what the sentimental Catholic is thinking. Even though it is still good to have a Crucifix there, the entire system of law and justice of our country ignores Jesus Christ. So, the clash of that remnant of an old order with the laicism that dominates the present day law and justice systems makes an affront to Our Lord.
Therefore, the true and faithful vassal of Christ the King, the true warrior of Christ the King, must constantly maintain a full notion of what is happening around him, seeing and lamenting all that denies the royalty of Our Lord. It is of no avail just to have generic abstract ideas if they are not applied to the practical situations of our lives.
A Catholic who does not assume an attitude of sorrow and bitterness when he sees the royalty of Our Lord being denied today is not a true soldier of Christ the King. We should be known for constantly taking this attitude of bitter sorrow to see the rights of Our Lord denied around us. It should not be a sterile, academic thing, but a manly indignation that prepares a counter-attack to put things in their correct order as soon as possible.
Adopting this condition of persons in exile, we should pray to Our Lord, asking Him to allow us to restore His Kingdom on earth in the most authentic and elevated way possible, that is to say, through the royalty of Our Lady. It is the Kingdom of Our Lady that appears on the horizon as predicted at Fatima.
Posted July 13, 2009
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