Cristo Rey in San Jose

The Feast of Christ the King or Cristo Rey (or the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, if we want to be quite proper) is celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year (the last Sunday before Advent begins).

This has been a special day for our family for decades. Unlike some families that have a carossa (or an image of a saint, Mary or Jesus that goes on procession) to take care of, we have the image of Cristo Rey in the church yard to take care of.

My great grandmother, Primitiva Mendoza Ortiz-Obias, had it built in 1952. According to Lola Nanie, Primitiva (Bibang) did her research, and used the image of Christ the Redeemer in the Andes, as her peg. True enough, it looks more like this statue than other Christ the Kings I’ve seen. (How does one even do that? You mean, I can just have a statue built and name it as I like? I’m sure there is some sort of protocol.)

Taken on October 25, 1952. Mass was held at the altar of the monument. The priest was Fr. Rector Salvador of Ateneo de Naga.
Taken on October 25, 1952. Mass was held at the altar of the monument. The priest was Fr. Rector Salvador of Ateneo de Naga.

Looking at the old photos of the inauguration of the statue (which was done during the Solemnity of Christ the King), we noticed the date was October 25, 1952. This caused some confusion on my end because October is a bit way off from the start of the Christmas season. Thanks to the internet, we found out that the original date of the Feast of Christ the King was the Sunday before the Feast of All Saints (1925). In 1969, it was moved to it’s current date (Sunday before Advent) and was given higher importance in the ranking of feasts.

A few years ago, I posted this photo, taken during the inauguration and blessing of the statue. Tito Valiente, (a teacher I had failed to take while I was taking my undergraduate in Ateneo. He was from the Sociology and Anthropology Department – how could I have not taken a class of his?), Director of the Institute of Bikol History and Culture, had asked if he could use the photo. The fact that the rector of Ateneo de Naga had travelled to Partido to say mass said something about the event and the Ateneo de Naga as well. Lola Bibang may have been tight with Fr. Rector (to get such an important person to come to town). And the Ateneo de Naga went beyond the four pillars and out into the very rural areas to evangelize.

Today, mass is still held out in the yard (when the weather permits), and a member of the family still reads the Consecration to Christ King. I remember being told that only men were allowed to read the prayer. Mom says it was one of Lolo’s rules (alongside with only men participated in the procession). Well, not anymore. I’ve been reading the prayer for the past few years (I guess, it’s one tradition we can break).

The statue also continues to be a marker for our family, a place where we gather, smile and document our togetherness.

Viva Cristo Rey!