Thursday, September 12, 2013

Christ the King & the Precious Blood

One of our commentators has pressed some thought-provoking questions concerning both the reasonableness of celebrating feasts such as Christ the King and the Precious Blood, and secondarily, the timing of such celebrations. In case it hasn't been clear, we do welcome discussion and constructive criticisms about the choices the CTO makes in devising a well-balanced Liturgical Kalendar, though, our time is a bit limited to respond thoroughly to any and all questions and tangents (often very interesting ones) which arise.

Christ the King vs. Precious Blood?
Our friend, Pseudoanonymous, posed a pressing question (paraphrasing) - by what rationale do we keep Christ the King universally while relegating the Precious Blood as a local option? Both feasts have a didactic value and devotional value which focus on an aspect of Our Lord; neither recall historical events per se in the life of Our Lord which events form the basis for all of the major Dominical feasts upon which the Temporale is based. Furthermore, both feasts carry a certain redundancy to the aforesaid major feasts: Christ the King to the Ascension (and the Epiphany) and the Precious Blood to Corpus Christi which, in turn, stems from Maundy Thursday. But where they differ, in the view of this author, is that the former also carries a doctrinal focus over and more apparent than does the Precious Blood. The Church rightly celebrates other long-standing feasts of doctrinal necessity which do not specifically recall different events than those already contained in the major feasts (e.g. Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi). We see the Precious Blood, therefore, as primarily and almost entirely, a feast of devotion and not of doctrine, said doctrine already encompassed in Corpus Christi. We see Christ the King as also devotional, but primarily it is a liturgical observance which emphasizes the Church's social doctrines especially the TEMPORAL and eternal Kingship of Christ. This is not based on a personal political whim (though in current affairs, the social Kingship of Christ has sadly been relegated to the attic and seems like a personal fetish of only a few); we see Christ the King as liturgical manifestation of the Church's ever growing understanding, necessitated by the diabolical Revolutions of 1789 and 1917, of the doctrine of Christ's dominion over the earth as well as in heaven.

When should these feasts be celebrated?
In conceding the local observance of the Precious Blood, the question as to its optimal timing remains. For its relative newness, before 1911 it was affixed to the first Sunday of July; hence, it would only obscure the Octave Day of St. John the Baptist accidentally once every 6-7 years. Post 1911, that occurrence became permanent and the Octave Day became forever reduced to a commemoration at Lauds and Mass. Because there are more open days on July's Kalendar following the Octave of Ss. Peter & Paul, it could be celebrated at some point in mid or late July, or even simply relegated as an optional Votive Office over and above the Office of the day. We do not advocate fixing it to another Sunday. Another thought is that because the Precious Blood is intimately tied into Corpus Christi, it could perhaps be observed on a day during the latter's Octave, in which case it would be a June feast.

For Christ the King, the last Sunday of October makes perfect sense in that this together with All Saints and All Souls, which soon follow, establishes a Triduum of sorts which celebrates the three branches of the Communion of the Saints. Christ the King, as a feast which observes His Social Kingship over the temporal order, recalls, therefore, the Church Militant. The Novus Ordo shift to the end of the year destroyed this flow and recast Christ the King as an eschatalogical feast; indeed, under such recasting, the feast is redundant and unnecessary for Novus Ordo land, but we digress. While Pius XI's establishing Christ the King on a Sunday ran contrary to the 1911-1913 purging of feasts affixed to Sundays, there is a precedent for a minimal level of such Dominical observances retained post-1911 (e.g. Holy Trinity, Holy Family); by affixing it to Sunday, the feast becomes one of precept for all of the faithful (who are the Church Militant) in addition to the day of precept which is All Saints and the largely attended (though not by precept) remembrance of the faithful departed on All Souls.

Summary of Principles
1. Universal liturgical observances which neither recall specific events in the life of Our Lord, Our Lady, or the Saints, nor focus on a doctrine already celebrated on an existing feast should not be admitted to the Kalendar save by way of local or Votive concessions.

2. Feasts which are strictly devotional do not merit universal observance.

3. Feasts should not be affixed permanently to Sundays over and above the few already established, but Christ the King merits an exception to this rule because of the "Triduum" recalling the Communion of Saints for which precept or custom of attendance is already established for the latter two days of this "Triduum".


  1. Something else worth saying about the recasting of Christ the King is that its move eliminated the Last Sunday after Pentecost, a very didactic Mass.

    Perhaps we should also remember that the Precious Blood feast was granted by Pius IX to celebrate Rome's narrow and temporary escape from a coup against the Papacy. Its cause for celebration did not last. Its Second Vespers also obscures the more liturgically important Marian feast the next day. Even lowering Precious Blood's ranking would not help, as feasts of Our Lord get precedent.

    On the whole I tend to agree with you. Christ the King might be an ephemeral feast in the long run, that is, it may not be celebrated still in two centuries or so, but it still has value in this democratic, atheistic age. In contrast, I do not see how the Precious Blood feast ads much, as it is a variation of Corpus Christi, which is our observance of the origins of the Eucharist.

    Will there be the Sorrows feast (post-Lenten repeat) on the 15th or will we get an Octave day I wonder?

    1. I believe the NO also moved the Matthew 24 (or equivalent passages from Mark & Luke) to the 33rd. Sunday in "Ordinary Time", a week before Christ the King, which makes the move of the latter even more of a rejection of His temporal Kingship.

      You'll see on the Ordo entry for Saturday that at second Vespers of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, there is a commemoration of the following "Octave Day". The Passion Friday feast has a completely different Office (though the Mass is the same) than the one composed for 15 September. In any case, I think the September feast is strictly devotional, while the Lenten feast is clearly tied to the dominant theme of the time. Still, I do pause at the perpetual reduction of the Passion Friday Feria, but this is another discussion entirely.