Friday, 24 May 2019

The Times of Our Lives

Let God Arise

We have witnessed the deaths of our parents; we have seen our children grow up, marry, and produce children of their own.  Yet despite this long time and the passing of generations we have never witnessed throughout our lifetime a coronation of a monarch of England and the Commonwealth.  The explanation, of course, is straightforward enough: Queen Elizabeth has been the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch.

When her heir eventually assumes the throne he will be invested via the historical Coronation Ceremony.  British historian, Nick Spencer provides a description of the coronation ceremony which we have never observed nor witnessed in our lifetime.  (The description is of Elizabeth's Coronation Ceremony.  One presumes that the next monarch will be a male--either Prince Charles or Prince William.)

The coronation has its origins in a service first used in 973.  Although modified greatly since then, it retains the same basic structure, being located in a Christian church, presided by a Christian minister and based on the service of the Eucharist. 
According to the most recent precedent . . . the service which, is held in Westminster Abbey, begins with the choir singing an anthem based on Psalm 122.  Once seated, the monarch promises, among other things, to 'maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel' and to uphold the cause of law, justice, and mercy.  She is presented with a copy of the Bible ('the most valuable thing that this world affords) by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, who says to her, 'Here is Wisdom; this is Royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.'

The Communion Service then begins with the worlds of Psalm 84.  It proceeds along familiar lines (prayer, readings, creed) but is interrupted by the anointing, at which the hymn 'Veni, Creator Spiritus' is sung.  The queen is anointed with oil just as 'Zadok the Priest, and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon the King', in the words of Handel's anthem 'Zadok the Priest' which has been sung at every coronation since 1727.  She is presented with the orb, with the words, 'Remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.'

She is invested with the coronation ring, with the words, 'receive the ring of kingly dignity, and the seal of Catholic Faith . . . . may you continue steadfastly as the Defender of Christ's Religion.'  And she is given the rod of 'equity and mercy', marked by the dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

At the coronation itself the Archbishop of Canterbury says, 'God crown you with a crown of glory and righteousness, that you may obtain the crown of an everlasting kingdom by the gift of him whose kingdom endureth forever'.  Following this, there is the Benediction, Enthroning and Homage, after which the ceremony returns to the Communion Service, with the queen receiving the read and wine, the archbishop pronouncing a blessing and the choir singing 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' and finally Te Deum.  [Nick Spencer, cited in Augusto Zimmermann, Christian Foundations of the Common Law (Redland Bay QLD: Connor Court Publishing Pty Ltd, 2018).  Vol. III: Australia,  p. 60f.]
This ceremony, along with many others, testify to a Christian realm. They can seem strange and quaint to many in our day.  But, barring an extreme recasting, this ritual and the accompanying oaths will be eventually restated by Queen Elizabeth's successor. 

It is very clear that the Western traditions of the separation of Church and State do not imply in any sense that the State was regarded as secular.  Those who insist it is the case are marching to the beat of a very different drummer.  The Christian foundations of our society--seen as stretching right  back to the Davidic monarchy--are inescapable. 

May it please Christ our King to arise and to reassert His claims and historic sovereignty over our lands once again.  'Remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.'

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