This feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in order to counter the totalitarian ideologies of fascism and communism, then growing in malignancy. Against these false ideologies of death and brutality, Pope Pius lifted high the standard of Christ the King, showing the faithful that their true King is Jesus Christ.
Brother Charles over at A Minor Friar has a very insightful post about the feast of Christ the King and how the approach to this feast has changed within the Church over time since its promulgation in 1925. As the good friar suggests at the end of his post, given the tensions that have arising and are increasing between the Church and secular modernity, a return to the original vision of the feast might well be in order.
Of course, the Kingdom of Christ is not like an earthly kingdom, and his Lordship is not a call to deadening and dreary uniformity. "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," Jesus says. His reign is instead a call to human flourishing in all of its myriad diversity. He is no Stalin or Mao or Mussolini, seeking to displace the individual into a statist regime. Rather, Christ's reign is one of peace, where the dignity and individuality of each person is respected. And in the Church, as well, this notion of legitimate diversity (as opposed to the modern PC distortion of diversity) between people and among peoples is well understood. Serge over at A Conservative Blog for Peace makes a very good point about the nature of the Catholic Church, namely how very little uniformity exists within it. As he writes:
[I]n practice the church has never been monolithic: different cultures so different rites including the Eastern ones many Westerners forget about. (Most of which of course is now Orthodox but corporate reunion’s possible though unlikely.) We’ve always been about localization, as in family, ethnic and national custom; it may surprise you that my traditionalism is based on that and I’m actually a ‘papal minimalist’. We’re not the cult of one man other than Christ. Which leads to the matter of the Pope apologizing for something. Lots of people in and out of the church don’t understand what papal infallibility means: his office, only under certain circumstances (when he intends to define doctrine), is infallible; the man and his opinions are not. I can believe in limbo if I want to (I don’t necessarily); the reigning Pope happens not to.I learned this first hand when I was a child, growing up exposed to the German-American Catholicism of my grandmother while living in a largely Slavic parish in my hometown (Infant of Prague, Medjuorje, etc.). When I married my wife I got to see close up the intricacies and devotions that characterize both Filipino and Chamorro expressions of the Catholic faith. And let me tell you, from the Germans and Croatians to the Filipinos and Chamorros, there is a good deal of variation and variety in the way Catholicism is lived out. And this variation and variety is part of God's plan for the Church, that the unique contributions of each person and each nation may be made manifest as part of God's creative action in the world. In this way the Church shows the pattern of Christ's Kingdom, a Kingdom of unity in diversity and peace among nations.
The incredible diversity within the Church forms a powerful centrifugal force, one that could very easily pull the Church apart where it not for Rome and the role of the pope as the chief shepherd and teacher of the faith. The tremendous gravity of Rome, which often appears so powerful and overwhelming to those outside the Catholic Church, is in reality just strong enough to hold the whole thing together. Without it, Catholicism would rapidly become like the Orthodox or -- more likely -- the Anglicans.
Thus, Christ has blessed the Church with a vicar, a servant to help hold it together until the Lord returns in glory to usher in the fulness of his Kingdom. Soon may that day come -- Maranatha, Lord Jesus!