20 November 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Sunday 20 November 2022,
Christ the King

The large sculpture of Christ the King by John Maguire above the entrance to the Church of Christ the King, Turner’s Cross, Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the Calendar of the Church of England is the Feast of Christ the King and the Sunday next before Advent. Because of the traditional collect on this Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer, this Sunday was often known as ‘Stir Up Sunday,’ a traditional designation that coincided with the domestic tradition of beginning to make the mixtures for Christmas cakes and Christmas puddings.

Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles in Stony Stratford.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This morning I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, A reflection on the Feast of Christ the King;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Christ the King depicted in the reredos in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 23: 33-43 (NRSVA):

33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [34 Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38 There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

The Church of Christ the King in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ the King:

There are few Anglican churches dedicated to Christ the King, but they include the Church of Christ the King in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, now used by Forward in Faith.

The Feast of Christ the King is a recent innovation in the Church calendar. It was first suggested at the end of 1925 when Pope Pius XI published an encyclical, Quas Primas, in which he castigated secularism in Europe and declared that the secular powers ought to recognise Christ as King and that the Church needed to recapture this teaching.

At the time, the entire idea of kingship was quickly losing credibility in western societies, not so much to democracy but to burgeoning fascism – Mussolini was in power in Italy since 1922, and a wave of fascism was about to sweep across central Europe.

The mere mention of kingship and monarchy today may evoke images of either the extravagance of Louis XVI in Versailles, or the anachronism of pretenders in Ruritanian headdress, sashes and medals claiming thrones and privilege in Eastern Europe.

However, since 1925, the celebration of Christ the King or the Kingship of Christ has become part of the calendar of the wider Western Church. It took on an ecumenical dimension from 1983 on with its introduction to Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and others through the Revised Common Lectionary.

The Christmas tree is up in the Market Square in Stony Stratford since the middle of last week, and everyone in the town is looking forward to the Christmas lights being switched on next Saturday (26 November 2022).

But, for some people, putting the Christmas trees up too early or hanging up the lights and frosting the windows too far ahead of Advent may detract from encouraging a true Christmas spirit because they help us forget what Advent is all about.

Christ comes not just as a cute cuddly babe wrapped up in the manger and under the floodlights of a front window in a large department store in a shopping centre or city centre.

Despite the accession of Charles III earlier this year, kingship may not be a good role model in many people living in modern democratic societies where the heads of state are elected. Nor are the models of kingship in history or in contemporary society so good. It is worth considering three examples:

● We are familiar with a model of monarchy that paradoxically appears to be benign on the one hand and appears aloof and remote on the other hand, at the very apex of a class system defined by birth, title and inherited privilege.

● In other northern European countries, the model of monarchy is portrayed in the media by figureheads who are slightly daft do-gooders, riding around on bicycles in parks and by canals in ways that threaten to rob kingship of majesty, dignity and grace.

● Or, take deposed emperors from the 20th century: Halie Selassie, who died in 1975, sat back in luxury as his people starved to death; Emperor Bokassa, who died in 1996, was a tyrant accused of eating his people and having them butchered at whim.

Is it any wonder that some modern translations of the Psalms avoid the word king and talk about God as our governor?

Marking this Sunday before Advent by crowning Christ as King helps us to focus on Advent from next Sunday, and Advent is supposed to be a time and a season of preparing for the coming of Christ.

Eric Gill’s last work is the Crucifixion in the Chapel of Saint George and the English Martyrs in Westminster Cathedral, showing the Crucified Christ as Christ the King (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Prophetic Voice of the Nation.’ This theme is introduced this morning by Bishop Matthew Mhagama, from the Diocese of South-West Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania, who writes:

‘The nation of Tanzania is going through a time of change. In a nation where the economy is weak, the Anglican Church of Tanzania has a great opportunity to touch people’s lives spiritually and physically, offering them comfort and healing.

‘One of the ways the Anglican Church of Tanzania has been a healing presence for the wider population is through its service in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only has the Church offered counselling to those in fear of the disease, but it has also actively challenged misinformation around vaccines and built trust in medical institutions. For example, broadcasting radio adverts to encourage people to get the vaccine and working closely with government officials to spread accurate information through the churches.

‘By speaking out against misinformation and showing care for the population of Tanzania, the Church can be a prophetic voice to the nation. The Church has a wide range of opportunities to open the eyes of the people and to show God’s purpose for the nation. It is God’s time.’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Oh Lord I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds;
Lord, revive your work over the years,
that we may know your purposes for us.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Christ the King depicted in the War Memorial window by Henry Holiday in Saint Editha’s Church Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Christ Pantocrator enthroned between two archangels, Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel in the Basilica in Torcello (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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