Faith in the glitter of the Royal Wedding

Negative reaction to John Murphy’s confession of having watched the Royal Wedding was interesting!

I too, watched, without the slightest twinge of an uneasy conscience, one of the most fascinating television presentations that I have ever watched.

I sent texts to many of my friends in the dead of night, which, alas, mostly went unanswered.

In the morning, of course, there was a flood of replies proffering a multitude of excuses, but, sadly, the moment had passed.

The week culminating in the actual ceremony was a live update in the social changes that we are passing through, reflected through the lens of the Royal Family.

Before the day itself there was endless speculation about the dress Meghan might be wearing.

There were countless interviews with the beautiful and great.

There were stone by stone tours of the Windsor chapel in which the ceremony would take place.

There was a painfully complete tour of the route the various transports, ancient and modern, would take.

But there was not a word about the significance of the ceremony itself and the fact that it would be a religious ceremony with both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the retired bishop of London leading it.

The Royal family has a unique role in the modern world.

It is, like it or not, a setter of standards, one of the  yardsticks against which modern behaviour is measured.

Our society professes to have left behind the superstitions of the past, among which the Christian faith and two of its great exponents, Anglicanism and Catholicism, are in the forefront and firing line.

Yet the Royal Family has a key role in the Anglican branch of Christianity.

We say it is mostly symbolic, but I’m sure the Queen would not agree with that.

Her Christian faith is part of the warp and woof of her life.

It is the wellspring from which her values arise and it is there for all to see.

It would have been interesting to have had an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, himself a most interesting faith figure.

An ex-banker, he is part of a modern world that the media tries to ignore or put down – the religious aspect. But it bobs up again – because, like it or not, it’s part of our world.

He would have contributed something well worth thinking about on the question of the Royals and contemporary faith.

So, in spite of every effort to ignore the elephant in the room, there it was. Windsor Chapel itself is glorious.

  • Every inch of its interior breathes faith, breathes with the life imparted to it by hundreds of years of believers.
  • The beauty of its panelling.
  • The ethereal atmosphere of the choir – even to their tunics and surplices, which themselves evoke another world of which this one is a portal.
  • The banners of the Knights of the Garter, whose home chapel is Windsor, are themselves enough to make one catch ones breath.
  • The atmosphere of the ceremony was reverential.
  • The reading was well chosen.
  • People were in the presence of God, present in His Word.

The sermon was outstanding – the significance of having an Afro-American bishop communicating in a charismatic register perhaps unheard until then in that chapel – all things conspired to deliver a truly religious experience for all privileged enough to participate bodily or through the marvel of modern media.

And finally, the couple themselves.

Not to mention the mother of the bride, not only visibly proud to be at such a landmark event, but herself quite clearly a woman of insight, a mother who has brought her daughter up to have a social conscience.

We live in a world of falsehood.

Fake news pretends to abhor war, while the countries of origin of this news expand their munitions factories.

Politicians are cowed into keeping quiet about the necessity of provoking war in order to use these munitions, so that more can be manufactured.

But beauty has a way of winning through.

It exposes falsehood and fakery.

And for a moment, last Saturday night, the beauty that comes from the union of the religious transcendence expressed in stone, wood, choirs and the Word of God, shone through.

  • Michael Mahoney is a Marist, mountainer and parish priest of South Westland.
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