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.