On December 31st of any given year, countless members of the global family bring an end to the year past as it celebrates the beginning of a new year with family, friends, and fireworks. Not all peoples spend a night of revelry with their family and friends, for sure. And not all explosives set off are fireworks, to be clear.
So how is it, and perhaps more importantly, why is it that many Christian churches celebrate the end of the liturgical year the Sunday before Advent with the Solemnity of the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe? It certainly is one of the fullest titles of celebration in the Christian tradition. And in the Catholic tradition, it is rather a late comer, if you will, to the liturgical calendar.
The world is at war: bloodletting flows, systems are collapsing, governments are dysfunctional, the economy serves primarily the rich, institutions are in shambles, poverty runs rampant, violence is a way of life, disregard for human life prevails, absence of human dignity looms, destruction of the natural world increases, pessimism and powerlessness are evidenced everywhere, the rise of tyrants is ripe, and….you can well continue the litany of lamentations.
This description of the world is not that of 2023. No, this describes the state of the world in 1922 when Cardinal Ambrogio Achille Ratti became Pope Pius XI. In 1925 he oversaw the Jubilee Year in recognition of the 1600thanniversary of the Council of Nice which gave us the Nicene Creed as a way to declare our belief in the presence of God, the saving grace of Christ and the unending gift of the Spirt as we make our way in this world as Gospel people, faithful to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Who, in that act of fidelity, became the first fruit of our own personal and collective Paschal Mystery journey.
As part of the 1925 Jubilee Year, Pope Pius XI established the feast of Christ the King to remind the faithful of who they are and whose they are, even in the midst of the realities of the world. The feast was set for the last Sunday in October a week before All Saints Day and four weeks before Advent as a reminder Christ reigns in this world and will one day judge all of humankind as to how they lived his message of peace, unity, hope, compassion, and love.
In 1969 Pope Paul VI, aware of the world realities of the times, moved the feast to the last Sundy in the liturgical year and raised it to the Solemnity of the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of All/Universe. This brought significant attention to the feast as the way to end the liturgical year in preparing for the time when humankind will answer for its way of living in this world. Thus, this feast is celebrated just as we begin to ready ourselves for the Feast of the Incarnation, God-With-Us, Emmanuel during the season of Advent.
So why such attention to the history of this solemnity? Perhaps situating this feast in its context of origin can provide a lens to situate ourselves as we end this liturgical year and ready ourselves for beginning again. How have we lived? How have we treated others? All living beings? How is it that we are still at war—within ourselves, between one another and among nations? How do we not hear the voice of the shepherd pointing the way to life? How can we continue to turn a blind eye to the needs of our sisters and brothers, near and far? How do we drift so far away from living as sheep who know they are loved and as followers of a king whose heart bursts for each one of us?
On this solemn feast we are offered images of sheep, goats, shepherds, and kings. Let’s take some time this week, before we begin again in Advent, to nurture our own shepherd, and king-like qualities: compassionate, protective, loving, caring, humble, hardworking, selfless, trustworthy, visionary, committed, example setting, faithful, genuine, know we are anointed in Baptism into the life of Jesus Christ and called by God to live a life worthy of our calling. At the end of each day and at the end of our last day, will we hear the words of Matthew’s Gospel spoken to us: “Amen, I say to you, what you did for the least of my sisters and brothers, you did for Me. Come and enter the place I have prepared for you for all eternity.”
Carol Zinn, SSJ
Carol Zinn, SSJ
Dr. Carol Zinn, a Sister of St. Joseph from Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA has ministered in the formal and non-formal education profession. She has taught on all levels (pre-K through post-graduate) and has worked in the areas of educational leadership, religious education, sacramental coordinator, and music minister.
Dr. Zinn earned a BS in Education from Chestnut Hill College, PA; a Master’s in Theology from St. Bonaventure University, NY; and a Doctorate in Curriculum Development and Education Foundations from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She was also a research fellow at Episcopal Divinity School and Harvard University on the topic: Leadership and Transformation.
Dr. Zinn worked in grassroots-based international movements as consultant and facilitator. In particular, she worked on the United Religions Initiative and the Earth Charter. She also worked as the Education Program Director for Global Education Associates, a non-governmental organization working to further global systemic change. And served as the main representative for the Congregations of St. Joseph, an NGO in General Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations, representing over 15,000 Sisters of St. Joseph who live and minister in 54 countries.
Dr. Zinn served on her Congregation’s leadership team and during that time in the Presidency of LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) from 2012-2015. She served as the Senior Vice President for Mission Integration for Plante Moran Cresa Company working with Congregations as they discerned the future of their mission and charism and the fully living of religious life during these transformational times. Currently Carol serves as the Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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