Epiphany celebrates the universal call of Christ the King. The kingship of Christ is veiled in the gospel of Matthew by the simple birth and is particularly well hidden in the gospel of Luke where, instead of intelligentsia from the East, a lower class of visitor arrived in the persons of shepherds. The idea of Kingship may be foreign to us, perhaps more from misunderstanding than practice. A Christian monarch was not placed on the throne by divine right to be indulgent. Rather, he or she was destined by God to fulfill a role in which his or her job was to fulfil the greater moral order. Kings were not to be dictators who implemented personal whims. Although they may enjoy their titles, eternal judgment loomed on the horizon and plenty of artistic imagery illustrated kings and princes in a pot of boiling oil for neglecting their duty in favor of a temporary fancy. One Jesuit in the 16th century, in a fit of academic freedom, published a book noting the possibility of killing or removing a King who abrogated the moral order. The kingship of Christ reminds us that following the great commands of Love of God and Love neighbor are not arbitrary, an issue decided by simple majority as in a democracy. Rather, the kingship of Christ is the natural order created by God the Father. It was this image of Kingship that Pope Pius XI established when he instituted the Feast of Christ the King in 1925
“If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.”
It is not surprising that the Feast of Christ the King occurred soon after the tragedies of the Great War, whose centennial we now recall. The war was a misalignment of values. A realignment was needed which Pope Pius XI could only see happening if humanity focused on the person of Christ. This vision of Christ the King underwent a slight modification when in 1969 Pope Paul VI changed the title to Christ the King of the Universe, noting that all creation falls under the domain of Christ, even life that we may find beyond the stars, one of the stars that perhaps led the Magi to Christ.