In the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer we pray “Thy kingdom come!” In this brief phrase, which we all too often pass over without much reflection, we ask that the rights of God be acknowledged and His laws fulfilled not only throughout the world, but also and especially in us. We ask that He reign in our hearts and govern our lives. This requires, however, that we recognize His sovereignty, His dominion over us, obey His commands and accept the crosses and trials of life.
We ask that the messianic kingdom, the Church of Christ established for the salvation of mankind, spread far and wide throughout the world, that the zeal of its members be intensified, and that Christ reign in the minds and hearts of men through their obedience to His Church.
At the same time, we know that many do not recognize His kingdom, His sovereignty. Many do not even recognize God’s existence. And too, many within the Church do not at times recognize the authority that Christ conferred on His Vicar on earth “to bind and to loose.”
However, it is important to realize that Christ became man to redeem mankind by delivering us from the dominion of Satan, to conquer him and his kingdom, and to establish on earth the kingdom of God. “It was to undo all that the devil has done that the Son of man appeared” (l Jn.3:8). To see this more clearly, we will consider first the havoc the Evil One caused, and continues to cause, in hindering the growth of the kingdom of God on earth.
THE KINGDOM OF SATAN
St. Thomas Aquinas points out that among the various effects of original sin is that we come into this world, in a real but limited way, under the dominion of Satan (III, 49,2). Following St. Thomas, the Council of Trent refers to this as “captivity under the power of the devil” (Sess.V, can.1).
Theologians explain that dominion in this way. God, in creating the universe, established it as a vast hierarchy of beings, according to a plan of ascending scale of natural dignity and perfection. There are, for example, inanimate beings (e.g. stones), those beings with vegetative life (plants), those with sensitive life (animals), those with body and intellectual life (man), and pure spirits with intellectual life (angels). Now it is the general law of nature that power and dominion corresponds with the natural perfection and dignity. Every being has some sort of dominion over those lower in the scale of perfection, and may use them to serve their own ends. For example, man may use some animals as beasts of burden, some as food; while animals feed on plants, insects, or other animals, etc. These rights, on the part of man, however, are not unlimited and can be abused.
Similarly in the angelic world, the higher angels exercise a certain power over the lower in many ways, as St. Thomas explains in his treatise on the angels. The angels, by reason of their higher place in the scale of perfection, have certain natural rights and dominion over their inferiors . . . including man without grace. I say “without grace,” for man with grace shares in the very life of God, giving him a supernatural capacity infinitely superior to the natural powers of the highest angel.
Like Adam and Eve, so the angels before them were created in the state of grace, and destined for eternal beatitude with God. And like man, the angels too had to merit that eternal reward, and for that reason they were subjected to a test. We do not know the precise nature of that test, but theologians believe that God revealed to the angels His plan for the human race. In that plan they saw the Incarnate Son of God as a member of the human race (human nature being far inferior to the angelic) whom they would have to worship and serve.
Lucifer (also called Satan), one of the highest of God’s angels, seeing the perfection of his own angelic nature, was too proud to subject himself to a man, even if that man were also a divine person. He rebelled against God’s plan, and enticed an immense number of angels inferior to him to follow his example. “The dragon’s tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dashed them to the earth" (Rev. 12:4). Scripture scholars see in this an allusion to the number of angels seduced by Satan. Immediately the rebellious angels lost the supernatural life of grace and were cast out of what the Scriptures refer to as heaven. We note, however, that they had not attained the beatific vision of God for they failed to merit that reward.
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. Although the dragon and his angels fought back, they were overpowered and lost their place in heaven” (Apoc. 12:7).
Because of this, the devil was filled with hatred for anything human, and especially for Christ, the God-man whose coming had been the occasion of his downfall. And when God created the first man and woman (inferior by nature, but superior by grace and free from the devil’s dominion) his envy of man was especially intense. In this envy he sought to deprive them of their divine life which made them superior to him, and to bring them under his dominion. As we know, in this he succeeded. (For a detailed account of original sin and its consequences, cf. Vol. 41, n.3)
While Satan’s dominion before the fall of Adam extended only to the fallen angels, after Adam’s fall it embraced as well all human beings not in the state of grace. Yet, the devil’s influence over humans is limited by God, who will not let them be tempted beyond their capacity to respond. Adam forfeited for himself and his offspring the one thing that made him superior to the devil, giving the devil his natural right over an inferior being. This is the basis of man’s captivity under the devil’s power. Thus every human person born into this world (with the exception of the Immaculate Mother of God) comes into the world under the dominion of Satan, and remains such until liberated by the waters of baptism.
Immediately after the fall of our first parents, God declared war on the devil who had deceived them. His words include a reference to a kingdom that would come into being when, in the fullness of time, the new Adam, Christ the promised Messiah, would establish the kingdom of God on earth. This he would do to conquer the devil and counter his works, and to provide the means whereby the grace forfeited by our first parents could be restored.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and hers; He will crush your head, while you strike at His heel" (Gen. 3:15).
As with the fall of Adam and Eve the kingdom of Satan was established on earth, so with the passion and death of Christ the kingdom of God was established, and the conquest of Satan and his followers was complete. Yet the devil is still allowed to tempt humans as St. Peter warns in his epistle:
“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same suffering throughout the world” (5:8).
The kingdom of God is but another name for the Mystical Body of Christ. Both concepts express our union with Christ through grace; both include the Church Militant on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. Yet, when considered as the Kingdom of God, it is seen more in the light of Christ's reign in the minds and hearts of men, their recognition of His sovereignty and obedience to His laws.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In the Old Testament there are many references to the promised Messiah, His divine and royal nature, and the universal sovereignty of His Kingship. "Your God is coming . . . to save you" (Is. 35:4). “He shall rule from sea to sea. . . . All kings of the earth shall adore Him; all nations shall serve Him" (Ps. 71). But none are more explicit than the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary in the gospel of St. Luke: "The Lord God shall give Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (1:32).
When this King of kings came to His last day on earth, having been rejected by the leaders of His own people, He stood before Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus replied. By this He was saying "My kingdom and power come not from earthly sources, and it is exercised other than are kingdoms of this world." His kingdom was opposed only to the kingdom of Satan, and the powers of darkness. It is not a kingdom that relies on worldly resources and power. It is a kingdom principally of the spiritual order, in which Christ seeks to rule the minds and hearts of men, not by physical force, but through loving and trusting acceptance of His message. It is a kingdom in which “to reign is to serve” . . . a kingdom which rewards the poor in spirit and humble of heart . . . a kingdom where suffering (the cross) is seen to have a redeeming value and, for those who embrace it, a sign of being Christ’s disciple.
Theologians point out that while the kingdom of God is principally of a spiritual nature, Christ as God has temporal power as well, but did not will to use it in this life. As St. Thomas points out, Christ did not come to establish an earthly kingdom, and hence did not will to have temporal administration of an earthly realm (III, 59,4, ad 1). After the multiplication of loaves when the people were amazed by His miracles and carried away by dreams of material prosperity, they wished to make Him king. Knowing this, He fled from them into the mountains alone (Jn. 6:15).
Yet, even the apostles who had lived so intimately with Jesus for three years, and had heard Him talk of the Kingdom of God time and again, did not grasp the real meaning of His words until enlightened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Just before He ascended into heaven they asked Him: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” He let them know that the “power of the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem and . . . to the very ends of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).
The supreme authority of Christ the King is universal, extending to all places, to all times, to all creatures. Therefore, even the angels, both the faithful and the rebellious, are subject to His dominion. For this reason when we speak of the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God, it is important not to confuse this with the dualism of the Manicheans or the Albigenseans who held that there were two ultimate sources of being, one of good and one of evil. There is but one source of all being, one Supreme Being infinitely good, the divine Trinity of Persons. The divine plan of creation included creatures possessing free will . . . free to accept or reject the will and plan of the Creator. Even those who reject the will of God do not frustrate the divine plan, for God can bring good out of evil. Those who reject God only bring evil and suffering upon themselves, for they reject the dominion of God who loves us with an infinite love, and whose “yoke is easy, and burden is light” (Mt.11:30), for the dominion of Satan, the “father of lies,” who hates both God and man with all his being, and whose goal is our eternal separation from God.
God, the Creator and Redeemer, has a strict right to the obedience of all men; yet many do not obey. At the second coming of Christ, however, all will of necessity be subject to Him, for then the temporal power of His kingship will be made manifest in the judgment of mankind. St. Paul refers to this when he says, "Christ's reign will last until all His enemies are made subject to Him" (1 Cor. 15:25). It is important to realize that during this life, as in judgment at the end of our life, no one can remain neutral in regard to God. We either accept Him and strive to obey Him, or we reject Him. “He that is not with Me is against Me” (Mt. 12:30). We cannot be neutral in regard to the final end of life. If we have no desire or determination to strive to attain the goal revealed to us by God, we turn away from it following the bent of our self-seeking nature. The secularism of our present day, so destructive of the family, does just that, denying God’s rights over human society. The true Christian seeks to make reparation for this by recognizing the sovereignty of Christ the King in society, in his own family, in his own individual life.
THE NEED OF MORTIFICATION
If Christ is to reign in the heart of man, the weaknesses of our fallen nature must be disciplined by mortification. The impulses of the flesh, of the ego, the desire for worldly goods and renown all tend to draw us earthward. They will compete for the reign over the human heart, turning one away from the supernatural goal for which he was created. If that renunciation is to be sincere and efficacious, and it must be if it is to free our heart for the reign of Christ, it will have to include many things which will cost us much. St. Ambrose spoke of this in his commentary on psalm 118:
“There are as many kings (in our heart) as there are sins and vices. It is before these kings that we are led and before these we stand. These kings have thrones in many hearts. But if anyone acknowledges Christ, he immediately makes a prisoner of this kind of king and casts him down from the throne in his own heart. How shall the devil maintain his throne in one who builds a throne of Christ in his heart?”
Following this same theme, Fr. Victorino Osende, O.P. states:
“In order to establish this kingdom in our hearts we must first destroy all other kingdoms and dominions within it, or rather, the sole kingdom of our ego, of self-love, which is the origin, sum and compendium of all that which is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of Christ.” (Fruits of Contemp. p.336)
THE REIGN OF CHRIST THE KING
From what we have seen, it is clear that Christ reigns during this earthly phase of the Kingdom of God, not from an earthly throne, but from the Cross. From there He reigns over our mind when we believe and live His revealed word handed down by His Church. He reigns over our will when we obey His laws and accept the trials and crosses He allows. He reigns over our heart when we spurn whatever would turn us away from Him, or make us forget His love for us. He reigns over our body when we are faithful to the practice of self-denial needed to keep our bodily appetites and inclinations under control.
He reigns in us by governing us through His Vicar on earth (and the ecclesiastical hierarchy in union with him) by means of the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the moral virtues of obedience, humility, etc. By these virtues we become subject to Him in a very special manner, so that we can say with St. Paul: “I live, not I, but Christ lives in me.” May we be able so say “Christ not only lives in me, He reigns in me.”
The Kingdom of God on earth, the Church Militant, is but a preparation for the Church Triumphant. It is a time of conflict and struggle, during which we must use well the gifts God has given (natural and supernatural) for the performance of our duties in His kingdom. After the final judgment at the end of the world, Christ will hand over the Messianic Kingdom of the Church Militant to God the Father, which will become one with the Church Triumphant.
In these reflections on Christ the King, we would be amiss if we neglected a mention of her who is His Mother, whom He has crowned as Queen in the Kingdom of God, and whose intercession with her Son is so powerful. Seek her assistance against the temptations and wiles of the Evil One, envious of our supernatural gifts and ever seeking to rob us of them. Our Lady’s recommendation never changes: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5). Do that and her Son will reign in your soul.
Back to Light & Life Page | Way Back to Rosary Center Home Page