THE Feast of Christ the King follows immediately after Mission Sunday.
Last week it was pointed out in this column that the increasing secularism of Western civilisation had been responsible for the failure to "educate" (literally, to draw out the God-implanted potentialities of is person or people) backward and under-developed peoples who had come increasingly into contact with the once Christian world. An alien and superficial pattern of political and technical achievement had been imposed upon them, with the inevitable result that they were restless, unbalanced and easy victims to the fallacies of the latest ideologies, whether of Western liberal technocracy and nationalism or of Communist materialist ideology.
This has been, in fact, one single result of the virtual denial by the world today of the relevance of Almighty God and the primacy of religion. Across the face of the world, from West to East, from North to South, it is held that God no longer matters.
UNDER Communism, from Eastern Europe to China, the existence and relevance of Almightly God is denied and all who dare to preach and teach the relevance of God to society and the State can only do so at the risk of being imprisoned or killed. Here and there islands are to be found where the still persisting religion of the Catholic people demands a special technique designed to pacify and drug believers while ensuring that the main lines of social order are not affected.
In the free world, religion is still tolerated and in certain respects often even encouraged. It is considered a useful auxiliary in the maintenance of social and moral order and is particularly valuable for supporting national morale in times of crisis and war. But the existence and authority of God, where some belief in these persists, are not held to be relevant to the primary needs and aspirations of the bodypolitic and to the development of society.
It was in protest against this all round atheism, agnosticism and secularism that Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King.
MANY perhaps, even among Catholics, do not find it altogether easy to see the meaning of the rule of Christ over the political and social affairs of the world.
That Christ should rule over the individual person is easy to grasp. We are aware that the whole of our personal lives falls within God's Eternal law. We know that Christ founded the Catholic Church, whose authority guides us in spiritual and moral questions. while the Natural Law (which is the Eternal I.aw applied to the conditions of our temporal lives) traces for us the path of behaviour in submission to God's authority. Should we personally rebel against God's authority or stray from the Goddrawn path, we realise our sin and stupidity and we know how to put things right.
But when it comes to the behaviour of States and societies, whether in their relations with one another or in the relation between them and the persons who compose them. the picture does not seem so clear.
Our Lord Himself distinguished sharply between the law of God and the law of Caesar. Nor could we think either right or tolerable any social order in which the Church was the political as well as the spiritual authority. Such a theocracy must inevitably deny the Godgiven freedom of the individual and become in the end an intolerable despotism.
What then is the meaning of the dominion of Christ the King over the whole world and all who dwell in it ? THE answer is best seen when
we consider the state of the world today. The denial in practice of Christ's universal Kingdom means that States recognise no spiritual and moral law beyond their own. Their will is absolute.
It is a matter of detail whether this sovereignty nominally rests in a king or dictator, in a constitution or in the so-called will of the people. In some cases, a constitution, a common law or an inherent respect for precedents and customs does afford some temporary guarantee that the sovereignty of the actual effective rulers in power or of the will of the people is limited.
But if God's only truly sovereign authority is denied, absolutely or virtually, such safeguards can only have a relative and impermanent value. And even when States join together to recognise some higher international law, that higher international law must remain subject to man-made changes and amendments on which no ultimate reliance can be placed.
In other words, the denial of Gods authority and of the Kingdom of Christ means that there can never be any firm limit to the pretensions of any human society. And without that limit, man is free to do exactly what he wants. We understand well enough what this means in private life. But human societies, however exalted, are made and run by men. What an individual is capable of doing, a human society, which denies God's sovereignty, may do.
There is no need to seek far for examples. We have the obvious one today in the pretensions and conduct of totalitarian States, whether of the Left or the Right, which in the name of the will of the people and even of democracy itself exercise an unparalleled materialistic tyranny over the free human being. Nor need we look so far to see how States, which still pay lip-service to God and moral traditions, can gradually drift into an 'exercise of purely man-made authority that threatens the very personality and responsibility of the individual citizen.
IT would be foolish to pretend that the answer is easy. It certainly cannot be artificially imposed. In the long run it can only rest on a revivified faith, and faith can only exist in the individual.
But at least we can make a start by looking to ourselves. Catholics and other true believers cannot but be deeply affected by the climate of the times. They may keep their personal religious lives true and yet virtually accept, where public and social affairs are concerned, the secularist values of a Godless world. In so doing, they are failing to witness before their fellow-men to the Kingdom of Christ and the hope which it alone affords to the world. Can we blame the secularists if we ourselves fail to be a living reproach to them ?
For us one of the great values of the liturgical movement, if properly understood, lies in its power to save us from a too individualistic religion and to promote, in a living, communal worship and action, corporate witness to the world of the full values of religion.
Unless the outside world is afforded the example of what religion as applied to the whole of life, private and public, really means, there can be little hope of the restoration to the world of the sense of the Kingship of Christ.
Without this the world, whether in its Communist rebellion against God or in its secularist insistence that God's authority is not relevant to the world, must surely drift into ever greater fallacies and dangers.