In the Two Calendars
In the traditional calendar of the Roman Rite, the Feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, is kept on the last Sunday of October. In the reformed calendar it is kept on the last Sunday per annum, the one immediately preceding the First Sunday of Advent. There are, I think, good reasons that justify both choices. As I have treated extensively elsewhere of the significance of the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday per annum, I should like, today, to say something about the significance of celebrating it on the last Sunday of October or, if you will, the Sunday preceding the Feast of All Saints.
The Sunday Before All Saints
The Feast of Christ the King, kept on the last Sunday of October, inaugurates a kind of pre-Advent season that is, in some ways, analogous to the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. Christ, the “King of Glory” (Psalm 23:7), makes His appearance “arrayed in beauty and clothed with strength” (Psalm 92:1). The splendour of His coming will reveal, on November 1st, “the church of the saints” (Ps 149:1), the children of the heavenly Sion, “joyful in their King” (Psalm 149:2). The royal cortège of the saints follows the appearing (or parousia) of the King of Glory.
The Church on earth peers into the Church in heaven, and catches a glimpse of what God has prepared for those who love Him: “what no eye hath seen nor ear heard, nor hath the heart of man conceived” (1 Cor 2:9). “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his bride hath prepared herself (Apocalypse 19:6-7).
The Sunday Before All Souls
The radiance of the Face of Christ the King penetrates even into the realm of Purgatory, touching with its purifying rays the souls of those who await their deliverance. The Offertory Antiphon sung in the Requiem Mass clearly makes the link between the Feast of Christ the King and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or All Souls Day, on November 2nd: “O Lord Jesus Christ, KING OF GLORY, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit.”
The rest of the month of November becomes, in the light of the successive celebrations of Christ the King, All Saints, and All Souls, a kind of eschatological season — consider also the feasts of Dedication on November 9th and November 18th — bringing the Sundays after Pentecost to a gracious close, and preparing the Church for the First Sunday of Advent.