The angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary: "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
The Magi to Herod: "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?"
Charles Wesley to the church: "Hark! the herald angels sing, 'Glory to the newborn king.'"
The kingship of Israel's Messiah is deeply ingrained in the stories and songs of Christmas. Yet, in our modern and post-modern world, we don't really relate to royalty (other than to gossip about princes cavorting in Las Vegas). Royalty isn't much of a category for us.
In the early 20th century, however, the western world was in turmoil over the best form of governance. In Russia in 1917, political pressures led Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. The Bolshevik revolution threw the country into anarchy, and the royal family was executed the following year. In Mexico, a 1917 constitution was antagonistic not only to monarchs, but to the Catholic church as well. That Mexican constitution served as a model for the new Russian Constitution of 1918 and the Weimar Republic's German constitution of 1919. In Spain, a 1923 military coup undermined the monarch's power. In Italy, the Kingdom of Italy invaded the Papal States in 1860 and Rome in 1870. The next six decades saw hostile relations between the government and the papacy. Mussolini's fascists imposed martial law in 1922, assassinated opposition politicians in 1924, and by 1925 dropped all pretense of democracy.
Christ the King in 1925
In the middle of this anti-monarchist, anti-Catholic ferment, Pope Pius XI sat down to write ...