Monday, 12 August 2013

The Anniversary of the Coronation and its historic meaning

A Queen anointed like Solomon to reign over a Christian People

When the Queen was anointed and crowned Her Majesty underwent an ancient and deeply spiritual ceremony, combined with a service of Holy Communion with all its meaning of remembering Christ’s giving of Himself for our sins.

As much as the concept of Monarchy runs through the DNA of these islands, so too does Christianity – which is why the coronation has been since time immemorial a Christian ceremony.  Christian teaching not only legitimises our Head of State, but it informs our laws and the roles of our various institutions.  Just as our kings and queens are anointed in the same way as the kings of Old-Testament Israel and Judah, so our legal system in the older concept of Equity and the Twentieth Century concept of tort law where case law makes specific reference to Christ’s teaching, is imbued with Christian ethos.  Our education system, especially since the formation of the National Society, gives a major role to the established church in educating the next generation.

It is both sad and deeply troubling then that fashionable thinking pays no attention to the system of beliefs that is woven into the very fabric of England.  A Christian understanding remains, but almost unconsciously present.  Ideas of fairness and neighbourliness in domestic affairs and being a force for good in global affairs stem from our view of ourselves as a Christian nation.  It is because of this concept that individual Christians have campaigned for reform when this nation falls short – whether it be William Wilberforce campaigning against slavery or Emily Hobhouse campaigning against the use of concentration camps in the Second Boer War.  Strip this Christian understanding of ourselves away and the shadow of that self-understanding will only be cast so far.

Such forgetfulness can be seen in the selfishness of those bankers we now blame for our economic woes and in a belief that liberty alone is supreme – whether that be liberty to have something such as same-sex marriage regardless of the impact on the institution or to make money quickly despite the impact on others.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, in his sermon at the Westminster Abbey service commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Coronation, spoke rather of “liberty under authority” meaning freedom in obedience to God.  As Archbishop Welby said:  “Liberty is only real when it exists under authority.  Liberty under authority begins, as the Book of Common Prayer puts it, with our duty to God, ‘whose service is perfect freedom.’”

Meanwhile modern intellectuals employed in thinktanks, providing theories for politicians’ policies, pay too much homage to abstract theories about rights and choices – but pay no attention to that which actually does amount to the much sought-after “social glue”, our common set of values.

It is not the contention of this blog that everyone in these Islands would be regular church attendees but for the influence of policies thought up in Westminster thinktanks; rather, it is being argued that, whether or not the population is actively religious, our laws and institutions base their claim for authority on a commonly-understood set of overtly-Christian values. 

Just as church steeples are ubiquitous throughout town and country, so that their very every-dayness renders them invisible, despite their architectural beauty; so our institutions with all their striking pageantry, insofar as they embody and reiterate Christian teaching, gently yet firmly tell us that we are a Christian people and must live up to those values.  As the Archbishop put it in the same sermon:

“The very nature of being British follows this simple logic.  It is founded on liberty under authority.  It imitates the example of Jesus who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled Himself and took the form of a slave.  In Jesus we see the greatest servant of all, whose service gives us freedom, whose love is generously offered to each of us.”

The saving of souls is for the evangelists, but our politicians and judges have a duty not to chip away continuously at the Christian foundations of our nation’s values. 

Like Saint Paul’s in the Blitz our more ancient institutions remain as affirmations of who we are in a modern Britain coming to terms with an economic crash and the social impact of broken families.  It is those institutions that rely on Christianity for their authority that the Political Class least understands and regards disdainfully as irrelevant.  The Monarchy, the Established Church and the Lord Chancellor (with his role as Keeper of the Queen’s conscience and guardian of equitable law) are incomprehensible to the shallow, modern minds of many of our politicians; yet it is loyalty to the Crown and the life-service of our Queen; the sanctifying by a National Church of our ceremonies; and the fairness of equity in law that give us our almost unspoken understanding of who we are.

Returning to that Coronation ceremony sixty years ago:  In that service in which a young princess was stripped of her regalia to be anointed like Solomon we saw the embodiment of our Christian values as a person was set aside for a life of service to God and Country.  As the Archbishop put it:

“Her Majesty is the servant of the King of Kings, and so she serves us, as we serve her, in liberty under authority.  It is a system that points to freedom in God, in whose love we alone are fully human, fully free.”

Deeply spiritual, almost mystical and profoundly patriotic, the coronation is known to have had a real impact on the young Queen.  The worry is that it is because of those old-fashioned and profound ideas laying behind it that so many in the Westminster Bubble just do not understand its importance.

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