Sunday, 1 May 2011

Kindly light

I have felt disconcerted by the number of people I have heard saying, with reference to the royal wedding, that we (British people) ‘do’ this well.  I have heard it referred to as a ‘show’ by people who should know better. 

A creepy feeling as though the Abbey were no more than a film set, and the Bishop of London a fictional character in a TV drama, has breathed its miasma into something that was either real or of no value at all.

In the Sunday Times, Bryan Appleyard wrote: “…the royals are back.  They did what they do best – put on the greatest show on earth watched by almost a third of the world.”

On another page of the Sunday Times, headed “Frock watch”, another journalist whose name I couldn’t see, had this to say, under the heading The Mother-in-law Face-off: “Carole Middleton went for an ice-blue Catherine Walker coat and dress topped off with a Jane Corbett hat.  Camilla tried to out-razzle her with an Anna Valentine coat dress complete with embroidery, pleats and ombre detailing. She also sported one of the biggest Treacy hats of the day. So who won?”

On the back of the Sunday times Rotal Wedding section is a piece headed India Knight finds everyone aTwitter about Pippa’s rear.  “The assessment of Pippa’s physical charms quickly veered into ribald territory,” she says of Twitter commentary on the occasion.

Meanwhile online a Plain Quaker posted a photograph of the royal newly-weds on the balcony, unfortunately angled to suggestive effect.  And, as I noted here yesterday, a born-again evangelical Christian expressed disappointment that there were no assassinations.

To the world, to the stars, to the angels – to the watching, listening universe that believes in the image of God in us that we seem to have gone to sleep and forgotten, I want to say this: these people have got it wrong.  What we witnessed was something real.

The love was real, and its intention serious.  The Bishop is not a guy got up in a frock spouting pompous religious yadayada to please an eager crowd; he is God’s minister, and he brought us a word of truth.

Westminster Abbey is not a film studio or a backdrop, it is a holy place; and tittering twittering descending into ribaldry over a young woman’s body has no place there.

As to the third of the world that was watching and the ‘mother-in-law face-off’ of women trying to outdo one another to steal the show, this is the vain, shallow, empty thinking of Mammon, and it misses the mark by a hundred miles.  What I saw was people drawing together to support, to celebrate, to rejoice, for a young couple who really love one another and really meant their vows; and drawing together to drink at the well of ancient faith tradition, because it has power to feed their souls.  And in Carole and Camilla, I saw two elegant and beautiful women not rivalling one another but joining together to honour and celebrate a happy and wonderful occasion.

It cannot only be me who finds this smart-alec stance of cynicism, seeing only spectacle and statistics, looking gleefully for a fight or a cleavage to snigger at, unbearably wearisome.

The journalists all agree that Catherine Middleton, as a middle-class commoner, has breathed new life into the ailing firm that is “the royals”: “braying aristos” as Bryan Appleyard described members of the English aristocracy, ploughing on with such determination with his embarrassing vulgarity.

The English monarchy is not a commercial operation or a TV show.  The dignity and composure of the Queen is only stuffy and starchy to those without understanding of the value of restraint and majesty.  The fealty we owe her is something real, both as her people and as members of the Church of England.

I wonder if there may be enough of us to resist the creeping sulphurous suffocation of this slime mould of Mammon whose spread advances constantly, enough of us to see by the light that is both real and gentle, that beautifies and dignifies and clothes imperfection with compassion.  I wonder if we can come into the holy space with reverence, seeing not preening mannequins trying to outdo one another but the honest self-giving of people who have brought their best; and looking at a young woman not as a collect of ‘assets’ to nudge and wink and snigger over, but as someone whose humanity is beautiful in its wholeness, supporting her sister with love on this most happy of days, watching to see that all went well for her.

The gospel writers place great emphasis on how we see things, and sketch for our imagination the vision of the Kingdom of Heaven as a state of inner light.  The world we each live in is according to what we see; and what we see is not a random accident but a matter of choice, direction and focus.

The light illumines the sanctuary of our souls, lifting the darkness with its steady and gentle shining.  It is not a harsh light, exposing everything to the critical eye of judgement.  The light of Christ is a kindly lantern, clothing everything in beauty, transforming the world into a place of wonder and mystery.  If we want to, we can choose to see by the light of Christ.  There is no need for the glare and glitter of worldly cynicism to infect and ruin everything.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.


Michelle-ozark crafter said...

What I saw in a rerun of the wedding were two sweet "kids" getting married. I thought it sweet how he told her she looked beautiful! The women were all dressed in their finest and looked beautiful. I wouldn't want to dress up that way but I thought they all looked nice! At least the bride was fairly well covered up unlike so many brides with everything hanging out!

Hawthorne said...

Amen Ember! What I saw was pure Love and Joy, and I'll bet that's what God saw too!

"Rejoice with those who rejoice..." Romans 12:15

Anonymous said...

I too have been a bit scolding to those who act as if the future King of England and Defender of the Faith is just some twit of a rock star, looking for publicity. I too took it personally, as an Anglican, as a priest. I saw not pagaentry and spectacle but one of the pivotal rites of our church. It was - in its location, in its invited guests, in the whole involvement of the people and church - an Anglican wedding. This is what we do. It represents and symbolizes - in any couple - the union of Jesus Christ and His bride, the Church.

Ganeida said...

Pen, I wasn't watching this but heard the music because Star had turned over & thought that was lovely & Kate's dress was lovely; a return to a more beautiful & restrained monarchy. While not a royalist I appreciate the hard work they do & that they must live out their private moments in the public glare. They did so on their wedding day with grace & dignity & they desrve more than public vulgarity. They are God's annointed to head an earthly kingdom & as such these are sacred moments & we trivialise them at our peril. We seem to be good at that. *sigh*. God bless, Pen.

Michelle said...

And the people say, "Amen". Thank you for this. I posted a comment and an introduction on your Facebook page a week or so ago. I am Anglican-with-Quaker-Leanings : ) Ignatian-trained Spiritual Director, Midwife, Writer and Urban Farmer, married with four children. I found the "Royal Wedding" to be a very simple and sacred joining of two lovely young people in marriage and it was clear to me that they are in earnest and carefully planned a ceremony that would be God-honoring and loyal to a set of shared values. I thought the homily by the Lord Bishop of London to be among the best I've ever had the pleasure to hear and I hoped that people would take his words to heart. It was a beautiful service and a happy occasion for a family that has seen much of the same tragedy and pain that befall everyone in a broken world. I recalled the last time I saw those two young men walking up the aisle of Westminster Abbey and rejoiced with them that this time, the long walk was full of joy, instead of sorrow. Thank you again, for writing and for your work in the world, new to me ( I've just finished reading your book "Road of Blessing" and it has, indeed, been a blessing to me ) but becoming a marvelous part of my own life. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and speaks so well to my heart and soul. I too find it all very "unbearably wearisome". I watched the wedding as two people who love each other very much wed, and we were so very lucky to be privy to such a beautiful and special moment.

We need to see the world more within the Light of see it through the Light of your Jesus' Love and I through my Gods' Love...and there's plenty of Love for all in the world. I really hope more choose to embrace Love and turn away from all of the ugly behaviour.

Chalcedony1213 said...

May I just say that you have eloquently said what I felt about it too, that the sacred, the holy, and the covenant were not even touched by media or by people watching the wedding. I prayed as I watched that they would be able to keep the vows they made, that the Lord would make Will lead his home and Katherine to "obey" (a word she left out) her husband and submit to his authority both as her husband and someday king.

Jules said...

Totally agree with everything you said. As I watched the Royal wedding it made me fall more and more in love with England and I hope that maybe I can live there one day. blessings to you!

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi ladies!

Yes, Michelle-ozark crafter, within the language of the tradition that Catherine absolutely had to follow as the bride of a prince of England, she was modestly, soberly and reverently dressed.

Hi Hawthorne :0) Yes indeed, and also Colossians 4:6 - "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt..."

Hi Magdalena - absolutely; it made me want to hop on the first train to York, to get my occasional fix of cathedral worship at the minster, which strokes my fur the right way :0)

Ganeida, you speak my mind, Friend; we do indeed trivialise such sacred moments at our peril - and yes, it was with relief that I saw the bride William had chosen. I think she will handle her role with maturity and wisdom. May God help and strengthen her, because the media do all in their power to tear people apart, and the public watch it with the same thirsty glee they watched people hung, drawn and quartered in the Middle Ages.

Hi Michelle - loved what you wrote here, love your blog and look forward to reading more of it than I just have; so glad you like The Road of Blessing :0)

Cora, yes I like your words there, 'the Light of Love', and contrasted with ugly behaviour. Love is honest and courageous, but it clothes people in compassion, it makes life beautiful by its grace and kindness.

Hey Bridgedale, friend :0) Amen to your prayer!

Hey Jules! Nice to see you - blessings on you too :0)

Buzzfloyd said...

Amen! Picking up on something Bridgedale said - because what they did was true, it cannot be touched by this worldliness. Those who choose to see it that way are only fooling themselves. The darkness has never understood the light and the darkness will never put it out.

One of the things I appreciated in the obvious care with which they had planned the wedding was the choices that reflected a sense of family connection; that they chose Westminster Abbey where they had had Diana's funeral, but also where the Queen was crowned, and that they chose to enter to Parry's "I Was Glad", the same music that the Queen entered to for her coronation. It was like they were affirming their serious intentions and willingness to stand firmly in the place they had been given.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Buzz - yes, I thought so too. I felt that this royal bride has entered her new role intending to embrace it rather than somewhat rebelling against it.

Elin said...

I am against the idea of a monarchy in Sweden and of course in any country but I am not in any way against the people part of the royal families as people. I genuinely hope that they will be happy when they get married and that they shall live long lives (the assassination comment was horrid, I cannot see how someone can think it is funny to wish someone dead). I did feel that the wedding with all the uniforms and all the funny hats was a bit of a show but not their love. As I felt, I might add when the Swedish crownprincess got married last summer. They seem perfect for each other and it is clear that they love each other and I wish them well, but I am still anti-monarchy. I think it is important to be able to dislike a system and not feel disgust towards the people who did not choose to be born into a royal family anyone than I chose to be the daugther of a a stay at home mom and an owner of a furniture store.

Anonymous said...

I had to smile at your comment about needing a 'cathedral fix'. I'm the same way, that's part of the reason for heading to Toronto last weekend. There is nothing like holidays/celebrations at a 'high' Anglican church.

We watched the repeat of the wedding and I said to Colin that Will and Kate had the same happy smiles plastered on their faces that we had at our wedding. They are just a young couple in love!

I certainly hope Kate's dress have some influence on wedding dresses. They are getting so immodest. Personally I think Pippa's dress could have used a little more room around the hip. I also loved Kate's party dress. She seems to be such a lovely level-headed young woman. And I wish them a lifetime of happiness.


Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Elin, hi Paula! Lovely to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Not so sure about Rowan Williams the then ArchBishop. Being a Druid and and proclaimed son of a Celtic god (in the druidic inauguration ceremony) does not seem compatible with Christianity.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you for your comment.