The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pius IX in 1925 and, later, after the Second Vatican Council, it was linked to the end of the liturgical year.
The Gospel of St. Luke presents, as in a great painting, the royalty of Jesus in the moment of his crucifixion. The leaders of the people and the soldiers deride “the firstborn of all creation” and they test him to see if he has the power to save himself from death. And precisely “on the cross Jesus is exalted to the very ‘height’ of God, who is love. It is there that he can be ‘known.’
Jesus gives us ‘life’ because he gives us God. He can give him to us because he himself is one with God”. In fact, while the Lord finds himself between two criminals, one of them, aware of his own sins, opens himself to truth, arrives at faith and prays to “the king of the Jews”: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”. From him who “is before all things and in whom all things exist” the so-called “good thief” immediately receives forgiveness and the joy of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven. “In truth I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”. With these words, Jesus, from the throne of the cross receives every man with infinite mercy.
St. Ambrose comments that this “is a beautiful example of conversion to which one should aspire: forgiveness is quickly offered the thief and the grace is more abundant than the request; the Lord in fact,” St. Ambrose says, “always give more than what is asked for… Life is being with Christ because where Christ is there is the Kingdom”.
Dear Friends, in Christian art we can contemplate the way of love that the Lord reveals to us and that he invites us to follow. In fact, in the earliest times “in the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings… it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king — the symbol of hope — at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgment as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives”: hope in the infinite love of God and commitment to order our life according to God’s love.
When we contemplate the depiction of Jesus inspired by the New Testament — as an ancient council teaches — we are led to “understand the sublimity and the humiliation of the Word of God and to recall his life in the flesh, his passion and salvific death, and the redemption that thus came to the world”.
“Yes, we need it, precisely to become capable of recognizing in the pierced heart of the Crucified the mystery of God”.