For a country whose last king abdicated in 1795, as his state ceased to exist owing to partition by Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary, Poland might be thought to have had enough of monarchy in any form. But in the early 20th century a nurse by the name of Rozalia Celakowna resurrected the idea, claiming that she had heard voices demanding that Christ be recognised as king.
Ceremonies “enthroning” Christ have been held in Poland in recent years, including at Jasna Góra in 1997 and Świebodzin in 2000. In the latter there now stands a statue of a crowned Jesus (pictured). Towering 33 metres it is the tallest in the world.
In 2006 there was even an attempt to have Christ recognised as king of Poland on the statute books. Yet the bill failed to gain support in parliament, and was criticised by some senior figures from the Catholic Church.
Bishop Tadeusz Gocłowski of Gdańsk said parliament should concentrate on making more needed law. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek added that the attempt may have good will at heart, but “sounds a bit like propaganda”.
Still later, in 2008 a conference of bishops in Poland announced that such an enthronement was “unnecessary”, while in 2012 they repeated that there was “no need” to announce Christ as king.
Yet, while not new, the ceremony to be held at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy at Łagiewniki, Kraków, this weekend, is unique in one respect. For the first time, a Polish head of state will attend. President Andrzej Duda has announced that he will join pilgrims from Poland, the US, Canada and Germany at the event.
Regal veneration for Mary, the Christian mother of Christ, has a long history in Poland. In 1656, Jan II Kazimierz gave an oath in Lviv (now Ukraine, then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), to entrust the Commonwealth to her protection. He announced Mary as “The queen of the Polish crown”.
Then, in 1717 there was a ceremonial coronation of the Black Madonna at Częstochowa. This, says historian Norman Davies “…indicated the clergy’s determination to keep its hold over the faithful despite the country’s political decline. In many respects, however, the strength of the Catholic faith was sounder than the fabric of the Church. Under the blows of political disaster, where the Church faltered, the faith took heart. One might almost believe that Polish Catholicism was preparing itself for the ordeal of the partitions. Hard times and persecution rallied the faith, even when the hierarchy reeled”.
Some devout Catholics in Poland still view Mary as queen, as reflected in a song called Maryja Królowa Polski (Mary Queen of Poland) that is sometimes sung in churches on patriotic occasions.
The Jubilee Act of the Reception of Christ as King and Lord was solemnly recited on 19 November 2016 in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy and, on the following day, in all Polish parishes this act of faith, confirming the choice of Christ and sealing with Him the baptismal covenant, was repeated. This act is recognition of His dominion over the entire world and submission to His law.
The Act of the Reception of Christ as King and Lord of Poland is the moment that marks the end of the Year of Mercy. The Holy Father Francis in the Bull „Misericordiae Vultus” said, with reference to the closing of the Holy Door of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, “We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future.” Recalling these words, the Polish Bishops’ Conference decided that, on the Solemnity of Christ the King and on the eve of the feast at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, a specially prepared Act of Reception of Christ as King and Lord would be recited. This act, which also refers to this year’s celebration of the 1050th anniversary of Poland’s Baptism, contains a profession of faith and renunciation of evil.
The Act is the fruit of the dialog and the collaboration of the Commission for the Movements of Enthronement with the representatives of these movements. In a pastoral letter dated 11 October, the Polish Bishops explained: „there is no need to enthrone Christ, in the sense of placing him on the throne and giving him the power or proclaiming him king. Indeed, He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, forever.” The Bishops explained that today „we are witnessing an increasing tendency to leave God on the margins of life, or even to move away from God,” thus depriving him of the places and worship due to him. Therefore, the group of the Episcopal Committee has indicated, with regard to Movements of Enthronement, that there is an urgent need to enthrone Christ in the hearts of the faithful, by reviving living faith and the life of faith.
Bishop Andrzej Czaja, president of the group, explained that the Jubilee Act of Reception of Christ as King and Lord is intended as a conscious confirmation of the choice of Jesus, an unambiguous pronouncement in his favor, and a revival in living the vocation to holiness.
The Jubilee Act of Acceptance of Jesus Christ as King and Lord
O Immortal King of Ages, Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior! In the Jubilee Year of the 1050th anniversary of Poland’s Baptism, in the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we Poles stand here before you [together with our authorities, clergy and laity] to acknowledge your reign, to submit ourselves to your law, to entrust and consecrate to you our Fatherland and our whole people.
We confess before heaven and earth that we need your rule. We acknowledge that you alone have a holy and perennial law for us. Therefore, humbly bowing our heads before you, the King of the Universe, we recognize your dominion over Poland and our whole people living in the Fatherland and throughout the world.
Desirous to worship the majesty of your power and glory, with great faith and love, we cry out to you: Christ, reign over us!
– In our hearts – Christ, reign over us!
– In our families – Christ, reign over us!
– In our parishes – Christ, reign over us!
– In our schools and universities – Christ, reign over us!
– In the social communication means – Christ, reign over us!
– In our offices, places of work, service and rest – Christ, reign over us!
– In our cities and villages – Christ, reign over us!
– Throughout the Polish Nation and State – Christ, reign over us!
We bless you and give you thanks, Lord Jesus Christ:
– For the unfathomable love of your Sacred Heart – Christ our King, we thank you!
– For the grace of baptism and the covenant with our People over the centuries – Christ our King, we thank you!
– For the maternal and royal presence of Mary in our history – Christ our King, we thank you!
– For the great Mercy that you constantly extend to us – Christ our King, we thank you!
– For your faithfulness despite our betrayals and weaknesses – Christ our King, we thank you!
Aware of our faults and abuse inflicted on Your Heart, we ask forgiveness for all our sins, and in particular for turning away from the holy faith, for our lack of love for you and our neighbor. We ask you to forgive the social sins of our nation, all its defects, addictions and enslavement. We renounce the devil and all his works.
We humbly submit ourselves to Your Lordship and your law. We commit ourselves to ordering our entire personal, family and national life according to your law:
– We pledge to defend your holy worship and to preach your royal glory – Christ our King, we pledge!
– We pledge to do your will and to protect the integrity of our consciences – Christ our King, we pledge!
– We pledge to care for the sanctity of our families and the Christian education of our children – Christ our King, we pledge!
– We pledge to build your kingdom and to defend it in our nation – Christ our King, we pledge!
– We pledge to engage actively in the life of the Church and to protect her rights – Christ our King, we pledge!
You, the only Ruler of states, nations and of all creation, the King of kings and Lord of lords! We entrust to you the Polish State and Poland’s rulers. Make them all those who exercise power do so with justice and govern rightly in accordance with your Laws.
Christ our King, we confidently entrust to your Mercy all of Poland and especially those of the people who do not follow your ways. Give them your grace, enlighten them through the power of the Holy Spirit, and lead us all to the eternal communion with the Father.
In the name of brotherly love, we entrust to you all the world’s nations, especially those that have made Poland bear the cross. Make them recognize you as their rightful Lord and King and use the time given to them by the Father to submit voluntarily to your lordship.
Lord Jesus Christ, King of our hearts, make our hearts like your Sacred Heart.
Let your Holy Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, this earth. May he support us as we accomplish the obligations that are the consequences of this national act, protect from evil, and realize our sanctification.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we place our decisions and commitments. We all entrust to the maternal care of the Queen of Polish and to the intercession of the patron saints of our Fatherland.
Christ, reign over us! Reign over our fatherland, and reign in every nation – for the greater glory of the Most Holy Trinity and the salvation of humanity. Make our homeland and the entire world into your kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
* * *
Here, Poland, on the 1050th anniversary of its Baptism,
has officially accepted the kingship of Jesus Christ.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.