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Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_comJanuary 6 is the feast of the Epiphany.

I am most grateful to whoever tweeted the link to my 2014 post ‘Why the Epiphany is so important — a Lutheran perspective’ on Thursday, January 5, 2023. I received 743 Twitter referrals and the post had 852 views. As I write this in the late morning on Friday, I have had 175 Twitter referrals and the post has had 202 views. Many thanks — greatly appreciated!

The source for that post’s content comes from St Paul’s Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Kingsville, Maryland. Their explanation is a good précis of the revelation that occurred when the Magi arrived to visit the Christ Child, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Magi were Gentiles, which is significant, because it foreshadowed that non-Jews would be welcomed into the Church.

These are the readings for January 6:

Epiphany — Old Testament reading — Isaiah 60:1-6 (2017)

Epiphany — Epistle — Ephesians 3:1-12 (2016)

Epiphany — Gospel — Matthew 2:1-12 (2016)

These posts offer further reflections on the importance of this feast day:

A Lutheran pastor reflects on the Epiphany

More Lutheran reflections on the Epiphany

A Lutheran perspective on the Magi

The Epiphany and the Bible

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

What to remember about Epiphany (2016)

Some Christians mark their doorway with the initials of the Three Kings every year on this day:

Remembering the Epiphany in chalk

Then we come to traditions that are celebrated at this time of year.

These posts have to do with English celebrations, marking the end of the traditional 12-day Christmas period and signalling a return to work:

St Distaff’s Day — Distaff Day: January 7

Plough Monday – first Monday after Epiphany

The English tradition of Plough Monday (2016)

Plough Monday — the Monday after Epiphany (2017)

And, of course, there are sweet treats to eat, such as king cake, which is popular in New Orleans:

Epiphany and king cake — a history

This brings me to Spain, where Epiphany overshadows Christmas as the main gift giving day, a tradition that has carried through to Spanish-speaking countries in Latin and South America.

Cities, towns and villages hold their own Three Kings Parade, La Cabalgata de Reyes, which takes place on the evening of January 5.

El Rincón del Tandém, the Spanish School in Valencia, explains Spain’s Epiphany traditions, beginning with children’s letters to the Three Kings, the Magi (emphases mine):

As with Father Christmas, in many countries a letter is also written to ask the Three Wise Men for presents. It is common for children to write this letter at school on the last days of school and give it to their parents so that they can pass it on to the Three Wise Men.

Parents take their children’s letters to the Three Kings Parade so that they can pass them on to the kings or their pages:

This is another of the Spanish traditions related to Three Kings Day. It is a parade of floats in which the people on the floats throw sweets, candies and some toys to the children who come to see them. In addition to this, the Three Wise Men ride on the most sumptuous floats to remind the children to be good and go home early. Alongside the floats of the Three Wise Men are the pages, who collect the letters from the children who were late in sending them. If you live in Valencia, don’t miss the Three Kings Parade!

Camels often feature in the parades, at least in Spain, because these beasts of burden are what the Wise Men used.

It is, therefore, important to ensure that the camels receive food and water at home after the parade. The Wise Men could use a treat, too. Children also put out their shoes, receptacles for their presents:

Among the traditions, which vary from country to country, food is given to the camels and the Three Kings. In Spain they are given a plate with milk and nougat and in Latin America it is cut grass inside a shoebox. All this so that both the camels and the Three Wise Men can have a snack after a long night of handing out presents.

There is also a king cake for family and friends to enjoy, the Roscón de Reyes:

This is a round-shaped cake, filled with cream and covered with candied fruit. You are sure to see it in all bakeries and pastry shops. Inside it hides a figure of a wise man and a bean. According to the tradition of each town in Spain, whoever gets the Wise Man becomes king for a day and everyone must pay homage to him and do what he/she asks for. If you get the bean, then you have to pay for the roscón.

Spain Is Culture has more.

Some towns have special postmen who collect and deliver the children’s letters. Children:

can either give the letter to the Wise Men personally when they arrive “officially” on 5 January, or to the emissaries and royal postmen to be found in the centre of all Spanish towns a few days before. They will be asked if they have been good at school and at home, because naughty children get left coal instead of presents. Although, in truth, it is a “sweet” punishment because the coal is made of sugar.

Everyone enjoys the parade:

When the long-awaited day finally arrives, the whole family come out onto the street to receive the Wise Men. They arrive with a traditional parade, riding through the streets on their camels, loaded with presents and accompanied by royal pages who throw sweets and goodies to the children. One by one, the delightful floats pass by, decorated with bright colours and inspired in popular children’s characters. The little ones will love them. All the while, a band brings joy to the celebration with Christmas songs and carols. The spectacle of joy, light and colour, combined with the smiles of the children, make for a feeling of complete happiness.

There are parades celebrated all over Spain on this day. Each has its own particular style, depending on where you are. In Barcelona, for example, the Three Wise Men arrive by sea, while in the village of Alarilla, in Guadalajara, they are daring enough to arrive by hang-glider and paraglider. Or why not see the parade in Alcoi, Alicante, the oldest in Spain?

Yes, we’ll get to the parade in Alcoi in a moment.

When the parade ends:

children go to bed early but excited, to wait for Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar to come in through the window and leave presents in their shoes. First they should put water and bread on the windowsill for the camels to eat and drink while the Wise Men do their work.

EuroWeekly had a January 4 announcement for the 2023 parade in Palma, Mallorca, complete with a photo of the Three Kings on a balcony waving to the crowd:

The Three Kings is the main Christmas period celebration of the year in Spain and the celebrations in Mallorca are magnificent and most certainly a spectacle to enjoy if you are visiting at this time of year.

The Three Kings is a celebration of the arrival of Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior in Bethlehem to see baby Jesus, and is enjoyed all over Spain with a street parade, known in Spanish as a “Cabalgata de Reyes”, on the evening of January 5, with the first-ever parade that was recorded being in 1876 in Alicante.

Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, aboard the period boat, Rafael Verdera, will disembark at around 6:00.PM at the Moll Vell. Once ashore, they will walk through the streets of the city accompanied by their floats and troupes.

Spanish Sabores has a first-hand account, complete with photos, from Lauren Aloise, who attended a Cabalgata de Reyes in 2012. The Kings and their pages throw wrapped hard candies from the floats:

La Cabalgata in El Puerto was probably one of the most fun parades I’ve ever been to. It wins the award for most dangerous too! The candy throwing was intense, and I was lucky to escape with only a few light bruises and my camera still intact …

Spaniards take this parade seriously. Everyone comes with big, empty plastic bags, hoping to fill them to the brim with candy. A few die-hard spectators bring an umbrella and turn it inside out– cheating if you ask me, but it seems to be effective. I heard teenage girls strategizing about how to catch the most candy, and Ale almost got knocked out when trying to retrieve a treat that had landed on the ground next to him. You’ll need to protect your face from the candies that the Kings throw at you at full speed, and I wouldn’t recommend bringing a very good camera (I had my old point and shoot thank goodness!) …

The candy they give away is kind of gross, and you have to fight to the death to catch it. I caught two by accident (they got lodged in my scarf) but I’m just not a lemon and orange hard candy kind of girl. That said, the challenge of catching the candy that comes your way (and not getting hit in the eye) is kind of fun. I was laughing the entire time!

Overall, I really enjoyed La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos and if the weather is ever as nice as it was this year, I’d definitely consider going again. My advice: be alert, and protect your face and possessions. Remember, it’s just candy, and although it’s free it’s not worth fighting for. Have fun!

It’s a Spanish version of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, as floats also represent popular cartoon characters of the day, including those from Disney.

A 2019 post from Andalucia Tours and Discovery says:

This parade is very popular, because not only The Three Kings will be there, but also other characters, like Spongebob, Aladdin, and some other Disney figures. You also see a lot of dancers, musicians, and puppeteers. The Kings ride on camels or elaborate floats and throw goodies, usually candy or sweets, down to the children.

In Seville, this tradition also starts at the 5th of January. The parade of that day will start at 16:15 at the University of Sevilla, The old Tobacco Factory. Then, the parade will end around 22:00 at the University again.

The parade of 2019 will be composed of 33 floats, seven musical groups, six hosts of Bedouins as well as a choir of bells.

Devour Tours also has a good overview of January 5 and 6, particularly the food. Their post is from 2022:

The Three Wise Men have been honored in various European countries since the Middle Ages. When the tradition of Santa Claus bringing gifts to children on Christmas Day became popular in some countries centuries ago, Spain followed suit, but used los reyes magos as the gift-bringers instead.

In recent years, some Spanish families have begun to embrace the Santa tradition as well. As a result, some children get gifts on both December 25 and January 6. However, Three Kings Day is easily the more important of the two, and the day when just about everyone in Spain will be in the gift-giving spirit

Throughout the holiday season, Spanish families enjoy multiple feasts that last for hours. Three Kings Day is no different. After opening the gifts from los reyes magos, it’s time to enjoy an elaborate lunch comprised of multiple courses and plenty of post-meal chatter, known as sobremesa.

A typical Three Kings Day lunch in Spain will likely start with some appetizers such as cheese and cured meats. The main course can vary depending on where you are in the country, but expect something hearty and filling, usually meat or seafood based. Just be sure to save room for dessert: the almighty roscón

The roscón de reyes is notoriously difficult to make at home and takes a long time. As a result, most people outsource theirs to the experts. Starting in the fall, bakeries throughout Spain see thousands of orders for roscones from locals eager to reserve theirs in time.

As for when to eat the roscón, that depends on who you ask. Some families dig into theirs as soon as they get home from the Three Kings Day parade on January 5. Others have it for breakfast on the morning of the 6th, and still others hold off until afternoon on Three Kings Day to have it for merienda, or the midday snack around 6 p.m.

Roscones can come in several different varieties, all of them delicious. Some are plain and come without any filling. Others contain fresh whipped cream, chocolate truffle cream, or even candied spaghetti squash (it’s better than it sounds!).

Now we get to the 2023 controversy in Alcoi, or Alcoy, in Valencia.

On January 3, The Times reported of an activist group’s objections to the portrayal of Balthazar by the locals:

The events, which mark the end of Christmas and the day when people exchange gifts for the festive season, still often feature people wearing blackface to represent Balthazar, the magus traditionally depicted as black in Christian lore.

In several towns, such as Igualada in Catalonia and Alcoy in Valencia, hundreds of Balthazar’s assistants or “pages”, also wear blackface.

Opposition has grown in recent years but the practice persists, sparking renewed calls for a ban. “It doesn’t matter what you think you’re trying to represent. It doesn’t matter that you think it makes kids happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tradition. If you paint yourself a colour that’s not yours, it’s racist,” Elvira Swartch Lorenzo said. She is a member of Afrofeminas, an anti-racism group that has campaigned against the tradition.

“The cabalgata contributes to normalising in the collective imagination the slave period as something harmless and without consequences,” she said. “The black faces that walk through the Spanish streets, our very presence, is a consequence of the slave and colonial past that is not studied in schools.”

Except that Balthazar was a very wealthy and highly learned man. He brought myrrh to the Christ Child, used in embalming and signifying His death to come.

The controversy began nationwide a few years ago and has involved more towns than Alcoi. Locals are appointed to portray Balthazar and his pages:

“It’s not a question of racism,” Eduard Creus, the spokesman for the private foundation that organises the parade, told La Vanguardia newspaper. He said several measures were being studied to respond to the criticism, including appointing a black person to play Baltazhar.

“Groups of people of African descent have approached the foundation offering to look for and hire pages, but ours are not theatrical performances,” he added. “Volunteering transmits the magic feeling of the occasion.”

In 2019, a Catalan television station refused to continue to broadcast Igualada’s parade, opting for another one that did not use blackface volunteers. The same year anti-racism groups reported that their campaign had led to a reduction to one in four parades using blackface Baltazhars. Last year a senior official from Spain’s equality ministry criticised Alicante city hall for featuring a blackface Baltazhar.

Activists also object to camels being used:

Afrofeminas has called for a boycott of Alcoy’s parade, which is the oldest in Spain dating to 1885, but its appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears. However, a petition by an animal rights group demanding that camels not be used in the event attracted more than 77,000 signatures.

But that’s what camels are for. They are beasts of burden. They always have been.

I don’t know what to say, other than that the activists don’t know the story of the Magi, one of the most beautiful in the New Testament.

Matthew does not give us specifics about the Wise Men, Three Kings or Magi — whatever one prefers to call these brilliant men who followed a star for many months, probably a year or more, in order to find their final destination.

Wikipedia’s entry on Biblical Magi states that the origin of their names came from a 5th century document in the first instance:

The online version of Encyclopædia Britannica states: “According to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia or sometimes Ethiopia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.”[23] These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500, which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari.[19] Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details.[24][25]

Also:

In the Western Christian church, they have all been regarded as saints

It does seem as if activists, who probably know nothing about the Bible, are hell bent on destroying Christian traditions.

I cannot think of a better way of getting children interested in the New Testament than during the Christmas season, ending with Epiphany. The Nativity story is a beautiful, albeit humble, one and it shows that people from all nations are welcome in God’s kingdom through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ.

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We are now one week away from Christmas Day 2022.

Below are some of my posts on Christmas past and present.

The Octave of Christmas — O Antiphons

Centuries ago, it was usual for Christians to use the week before Christmas to contemplate our Saviour’s birth through the O Antiphons, every one of which begins with ‘O’, e.g. O Emmanuel. Below is each one, complete with commentary on the relevant Bible verse. Some days have a second O Antiphon:

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2013)

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 18 (2013)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 19 (2013)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 20

The O Antiphon for December 21

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

Today, they are used less often, which is a pity, as they help prepare us for the wondrous Christmas miracle of the Christ Child.

However, the good news is that some Anglican churches feature concerts early in Advent with classical music that explores the O Antiphons.

One was held at Great St Bartholomew in the City of London on Sunday, December 4:

An Episcopal cathedral in the United States also held an O Antiphon service at the end of November 2022:

There is still some piety left in the Anglican Communion, after all.

Interestingly, an Episcopal priest discovered a card from decades ago that needed to be filled in, whereby church members going away had to attest to having received Holy Communion elsewhere on Christmas. Fascinating:

Christmas carols

Below are the stories behind some of the world’s most famous Christmas carols and some of the best renditions on video. I have included O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, as we are still in the final days of Advent. Carol of the Bells is Ukranian, by the way, particularly apposite for this year. May the good Lord bring them peace in 2013:

‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’

‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’

‘Carol of the Bells’

‘O Holy Night’

‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’

‘The Holly and the Ivy’

‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’

‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’

‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ (from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘Christmas Bells’)

‘Good King Wenceslas’ (for Boxing Day, St Stephen’s Day)

The next two posts discuss how Jesus and angels are portrayed in carols:

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

Christmas traditions

The next few posts discuss Christmas traditions.

Some say the candy cane is pagan, but it has useful Christian symbols which explain our Lord’s purpose in being among us on Earth:

Candy canes: useful for a Nativity lesson in Sunday School (Christian symbolism possibly unintentional — nonetheless, providential)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

Christmas cards

Also revelatory is the history of the Christmas card, which will surprise readers who have not read these posts before:

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

The Queen’s speech

For those who miss our late Queen, below are two of her Christmas messages, one from 1957 and the other from 2020, when we were in lockdown in the midst of the pandemic:

The Queen’s Christmas messages: 2020, 1957

Her Majesty is sorely missed.

—————————————————–

I hope that these posts give a fuller view of Christmas, which was not always the religious feast we assume it to be. By contrast, what we assume to be secular actually has Christian symbolism behind it.

On Monday, September 19, 2022, the United Kingdom held its first state funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The public viewing of the Queen’s casket at Westminster Hall ended at 6:30 a.m.:

I am certain that more than 250,000 people filed past in four days in London, because in 2002, 200,000 filed past her mother’s coffin in three days. I was one of them. It was an unforgettable experience.

The Sky News article had more numbers before the Queen’s funeral at Westminster Abbey began:

The Mayor of London’s office said an estimated 80,000 people were in Hyde Park, 75,000 in ceremonial viewing areas and 60,000 on South Carriage Drive.

Overall numbers will be much higher as crowds formed on virtually the entire route to Windsor, where Thames Valley Police said 100,000 people had turned out.

The Telegraph reported much higher numbers for Westminster Hall. These seem more realistic to me:

The four-day lying-in-state ceremony has seen more than a million mourners packing the banks of the Thames, waiting in a queue which, at its peak, took 24 hours and stretched 10 miles, beyond London Bridge to Southwark Park.

On the final day, Westminster Hall was attended by dozens of foreign leaders and royals who have arrived in London ahead of the state funeral, which starts at 11am.

They included Joe Biden, the US President, Emmanuel Macron, the French leader, Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and his wife Michelle, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, and King Phillipe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

On Sunday morning, the Government warned people not to travel to the queue “to avoid disappointment”.

Another Telegraph article had more statistics about the Elizabeth Line (emphases mine):

At an average queueing time of 12 hours – perhaps even more – they had clocked up a total of 4.8 million hours between them as they shuffled forward, uncomplainingly, in the sunshine, and in the cold, and in the dark. It means that since the late Queen’s lying in state began last Wednesday, her people had spent a cumulative 550 years saying their final thank you.

And if each of them entered the winding, folding queue at its end in Southwark Park, they would have walked 4 million miles between them, the equivalent of 153,846 marathons.

The fact that all of them knew how arduous the wait would be, having been given ample warning, is an even more reliable measure of how much Queen Elizabeth meant to them.

From children in push-chairs to pensioners and even global celebrities, they patiently waited their turn to spend only a few minutes in the presence of the late Queen’s coffin, almost all of them pausing to bow or curtsy, many of them turning away in tears.

As one of my readers, dearieme, pointed out, this shows the trust our Queen had in her subjects and foreign visitors:

How often in the history of civilisations would governments, here or elsewhere, have allowed – even encouraged – huge mobs of the public to congregate, and trust largely to their natural instincts to keep themselves in order?

I think the answer might be “rarely”.

Douglas Murray pondered all of the above in his Telegraph article: ‘Our late Queen’s final act was to bring her nation and the world deeply together’.

Excerpts follow:

The passing of Elizabeth II is remarkable for many reasons. But just one of them is the way in which the Queen’s final act seems to have been to bring her nation deeply together.

There is the literal way in which that has happened, with the mini-nationalists across Britain ceasing – for a moment at least – their relentless task of trying to tear our country apart. The Scottish nationalists observed the death of our monarch without a series of “buts”. Even Sinn Fein paid tribute and passed condolences to the Queen’s son and heir – an act that would have been unthinkable beforehand.

People have rightly remarked on the way in which hundreds of thousands of people have queued to pay their own personal respects to the late Queen. But almost as remarkable is the way in which other nations around the world, as well as their media, have mourned her death

The Queen leaves behind a Commonwealth that has been united in mourning – hardly the expected reaction if she had been the cruel tyrant of the New York Times’s imagination

What is more, although the dissenters have received an extraordinary amount of attention, more extraordinary by far is how united the world’s response has been.

France, for instance, is not a country known for its love of monarchy. But on the death of Queen Elizabeth the French political and media class were united in paying tribute to her. She was honoured on the cover of almost every French magazine and periodical, as she was across the European and world media.

This reaction is largely a tribute to a reign of unparalleled length and dignity, a life given to the service of the country and the deepening of alliances with our friends and allies. But it also serves as a reminder of the way in which Britain is regarded around the world. With the exception of a few raucously noisy malcontents, we find that most people do not regard Britain as some terrible tyrannical power, either now or in history. Most see us, rightly, as having been among the fairer, certainly more benign, world powers

This is the Britain that is still influential both in its impact abroad and also in the lives of its citizens. I doubt that there has been a figure in history whose death has led to such a voluntary outburst of feeling. There may have been despots whose death had to be mourned by their citizens and subjects, but there can have been few, if any, who have ever produced such willing devotion.

And there is a lesson in this for our institutions, and for institutions and nations around the world: people are loyal to institutions that are loyal to them. Break any part of that pact and you break the whole; sustain it and you sustain the whole.

Queen Elizabeth II swore an oath to this country as a young woman, and it was an oath she kept until her dying day. That loyalty is what is being honoured and mirrored today: the respect of people around the world for a life of service and duty. Something to remember, certainly. But something to emulate and live up to as well.

On the subject of tributes from abroad, a Belgian created this inspired photo montage of the Queen:

The next two short videos are well worth watching. The first is about Elizabeth II’s ‘Queenhood’, probably written by the poet laureate with footage from her coronation. The second is a film montage of her entire life from beginning to end:

Operation London Bridge — the Queen’s funeral plan — was now in its final phase in the capital and at Windsor Castle.

A military procession arrived at Westminster Hall to take the Queen for her final time to Westminster Abbey.

A new bouquet of pink and purple flowers with foliage and herbs — rosemary for remembrance and myrtle from the plant which supplied the sprigs for her wedding — replaced the white wreath for her lying in state:

Eight pallbearers from the military carefully placed her coffin onto a gun carriage. Naval ratings holding onto ropes in front and in back guided the gun carriage on its way.

This tradition began with Queen Victoria’s funeral, which took place in January 1901. Horses were supposed to transport the gun carriage, but part of it snapped off in the cold, thereby making it impossible. Prince Louis Battenberg, who was Prince Philip’s grandfather, came up with the solution, which, he said, had operated satisfactorily during the Boer War:

If it is impossible to mend the traces you can always get the naval guard of honour to drag the gun carriage.

The tradition continued throughout the 20th century:

The gun carriage is part of the materiel of the King’s Troop, commanded for the first time by a woman, Captain Amy Hooper. She told The Telegraph that she was in Canada when the Queen’s death was announced:

“BRIDGE, BRIDGE, BRIDGE,” the text stated. “Operation LONDON BRIDGE has been activated. Initiate telephone cascade. All personnel are to return to camp”

She was in Calgary when the news broke, along with soldiers exercising alongside Canadian mounted units. The British party was flying back to the UK within five hours

Soldiers as far away as Turkey and America had to cancel their family holidays and return to the UK

On Monday, she will be leading the gun team in Hyde Park for the Queen’s funeral.

King’s Troop, a unit of about 160 soldiers with an equal split of men and women, has one of the most important ceremonial roles in the British armed forces.

Their six 13-pounder quick-fire guns, built between 1913 and 1918, all of which have seen active service in the First and Second World Wars, are used regularly for royal salutes in Hyde Park, Green Park or Windsor Great Park for State Occasions and to mark royal anniversaries and royal birthdays …

The gun carriage is known as the George Gun Carriage, and carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952. It was also used in the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.

Queen Elizabeth’s funeral had more troops and regiments than had ever been gathered at one time.

These included troops from around the Commonwealth, particularly Canada and Australia:

The soldiers walked at a 75 beat per minute pace, which is slow and difficult to sustain.

The Times reported on the use of a metronome, mimicked on the day by drum beats to ensure proper timing:

Military chiefs have been told to “up their game” for the Queen’s funeral today and listen to a metronome at 75 beats per minute to ensure the right pace during the procession.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff, admitted to nerves but said an enormous amount of planning for the event had gone on for “a very long time”. He said more than 10,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women would perform their “last duty” to the Queen during the day’s events.

Queen Elizabeth wished to have her funeral at Westminster Abbey because she had been married and crowned there.

The last monarch to have a funeral at the Abbey was George II on November 13, 1760. The other monarchs had theirs at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

The Queen’s children along with Princes William and Harry walked in the procession to the Abbey.

Meanwhile, heads of state and dignitaries took their places inside. Charity workers also were seated.

The Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales arrived with Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7:

The procession arrived at the Abbey and the pallbearers carefully carried the Queen’s coffin inside:

You can find the Order of Service here:

The Times has an excellent article on the service.

You can see the procession from Westminster Hall and the full funeral service. As with the other Royal Family YouTube links I have posted, if you get a message saying it cannot be viewed, click on  ‘Watch on YouTube’ or this tweet:

The Queen chose the music, which held particular significance to her and to the Abbey:

Pardon the irreverence, but this is an aerial view of the seating plan in the transept. Look how far back Joe Biden was. Apparently, his Beasts and motorcade got caught up in traffic, although he arrived before the service began. By contrast, the dignitaries who took the white coaches in the ‘podding’ system got there on time. Even if he hadn’t been late, he would still have been seated in the same place.

The altar is to the left and, out of shot, to the right are more seats for guests:

https://image.vuukle.com/7e30ba7f-4b3a-4ae2-b29a-1c92f7219cf8-4544ff54-d68d-45f4-a999-a193e9dbf19b

Likely sitting out of shot was, ironically, The Guardian‘s editor, Kath Viner:

Guido Fawkes has a quote from one of her recent editorials. I cannot bear to cite it in full, so here are the first and last sentences:

Royal rituals are contrived affairs meant to generate popular attachment to a privileged institution and to serve as reminders of a glorious past … How much Britain will be changed once this moment floats past the country is as yet unknown.

Guido commented (emphasis his):

Of course that didn’t stop the Guardian’s editor Kath Viner accepting a ticket to the funeral from the “privileged institution” herself. Maybe she’s sentimental…

Another hypocrite turned up, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, she of the second independence referendum.

The Times has a photo of her and her husband, Peter Murrell, along with a few quotes:

Nicola Sturgeon has said it was an “honour to represent Scotland” as leaders from across the world joined the royal family and other mourners at the state funeral.

The first minister was among some 2,000 mourners at Westminster Abbey along with leaders of the other main Scottish political parties. She spoke of a “final and poignant goodbye to a deeply respected and much-loved monarch”.

As I listened to the liturgy, I could not help but think that this is the last time we will hear language from the King James Version of the Bible and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer at a service for the Royals. How I will miss it. I hope I am wrong.

There was one prayer from an even earlier version of the Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Cranmer’s, from 1549. This was put to music. The choir did it full justice:

THOU knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.

This was the Bidding Prayer:

O MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who hast taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our sister doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy wellbeloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our mediator and redeemer. Amen.

The entire liturgy was a lesson about faith and salvation. Even an unbeliver could not miss it.

I pray that it works on the hearts and minds of those in attendance who are indifferent.

The Queen always liked Psalm 42 for its reference to the hart, which reminded her of Scotland:

LIKE as the hart desireth the waterbrooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to
appear before the presence of God?

My tears have been my meat day and night : while they daily say unto me, Where is
now thy God?

Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself : for I went with the
multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;

In the voice of praise and thanksgiving : among such as keep holyday.

Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul : and why art thou so disquieted within
me?

Put thy trust in God : for I will yet give him thanks for the help of his countenance.

Prime Minister Liz Truss read the second Lesson, John 14:1-9a:

LET not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.

After Psalm 23 was sung, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon followed:

Near the end, clergy from the main Christian denominations recited their own prayers in thanksgiving for the Queen’s long reign of service.

The Abbey’s Precentor then recited a prayer from John Donne (1573-1631):

BRING us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.

After the blessing, the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry sounded The Last Post:

The congregation sang two verses of the National Anthem.

The funeral service closed with a poignant military lament, Sleep, dearie, sleep, performed by the Queen’s Piper, Warrant Officer Class 1 (Pipe Major) Paul Burns. He stood on a balcony overlooking the congregation. Words cannot describe it.

This video has brief highlights from the funeral:

After the funeral ended, the Queen’s coffin resumed its place on the gun carriage for a procession past Whitehall, down The Mall, then past Buckingham Palace, finishing at Wellington Arch on Constitution Hill.

A gun salute also took place:

The Royals walked with the military, as before. This was a long walk.

Every person in this procession has seen active military service. I put that in bold, because some living overseas think that these are ‘toy soldiers’, as it were. They are anything but.

Here they are in front of Buckingham Palace. Note that the Queen’s household are standing in front of the gates in their normal working clothes to pay their respects:

The horses leading the procession were gifts to the Queen from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or the Mounties. The Queen was their honorary commissioner.

The Times reported:

George, Elizabeth, Darby and Sir John are the latest in a long line of horses given by Canada to the Queen and ridden by senior royals, including King Charles and the Princess Royal, during the annual ceremony of Trooping the Colour …

In 1969, the RCMP presented her with Burmese, a seven-year-old black mare who went on to become the Queen’s favourite horse.

She rode her at Trooping the Colour for 18 years, including in 1981 when Marcus Sarjeant, then 17, shot six blank rounds at the Queen as she was travelling down The Mall to the parade that marks her official birthday.

Although Burmese was briefly startled, the horse won praise for remaining calm due to her RCMP training, in which she had been exposed to gunfire.

Burmese, who died in 1990, was the first of eight horses given to the Queen by the Mounties. George was given to her in 2009. Now 22, he has been ridden each year at Trooping the Colour by Charles.

Elizabeth, now 17, named in honour of the Queen Mother, was a gift to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 …

Sir John, 14, was a 90th birthday present for the Queen and is ridden at Trooping the Colour by Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian.

Darby, a 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, was one of two horses received by the late monarch in 2019.

[Sergeant Major Scott] Williamson is one of four RCMP officers who will ride at the front of tomorrow’s funeral procession after the Westminster Abbey service.

It will travel up Whitehall and along The Mall, passing Buckingham Palace before ending at Wellington Arch. Here, the Queen’s coffin will be transferred from the state gun carriage to a hearse for her final journey to Windsor.

I will cover the committal service at Windsor in tomorrow’s post.

Last week, I posted the first part of my defence of a constitutional monarchy.

Today’s post concludes that defence of the UK’s system of government, the Queen being our Head of State.

Longest reigning monarch?

Since I wrote the first part of this series, the Queen became one of the world’s longest-serving monarchs.

On June 12, 2022, the Mail on Sunday reported (emphases mine):

The Queen has reached an incredible new milestone after becoming the world’s second longest reigning monarch.

Her Majesty, 96, will overtake Thailand‘s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned for 70 years and 126 days between 1946 and 2016, from today.

Earlier this month, the Queen surpassed Johan II of Liechtenstein, who reigned for 70 years and 91 days, until his death in February 1929

Louis XIV of France remains the longest-reigning monarch, with a 72-year and 110-day reign from 1643 until 1715, while the Queen’s stint on the throne now stands at 70 years and 126 days, equal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s.

The milestone comes as Her Majesty celebrated her Platinum Jubilee last week, with four days of parades, street parties, and other events, after officially reaching the milestone on February 6 this year.

But — and it’s a BIG BUT — two days later, on June 14, the Daily Mail posted an article proclaiming, ‘Queen is the world’s longest actively reigning monarch, royal expert claims’:

Although it’s widely reported she holds little interest in breaking records, her astonishing reign would only be beaten in length by King Louis XIV of France.

Known as Louis the Great, the French ruler became king at the tender age of four following the death of his father Louis XIII, and he ruled from 14 May 1643 to 1 September 1715.

According to the record books, only Louis XIV, or ‘The Sun King’, ruled for longer than the Queen.

But royal biographer Hugo Vickers says Her Majesty may be able to lay claim to being the world’s longest actively serving monarch by virtue of the fact the French monarch did not fully ascend the throne when he was aged four.

Although he was crowned King Louis XIV from May 1643, he technically served under his mother Queen Anne’s regency for eight years, owing to his tender age

In a letter sent to the Times, Mr Vickers writes: ‘In Louis XIV’s reign, there was a regency between May 14, 1643, and September 7, 1651, until he reached the age of 13.

‘Hence, while he may have been king the longest, our Queen is unquestionably the longest actively reigning monarch in the world.’

Sour republicanism

Republicans, i.e. anti-monarchists, are a dour lot.

Cromwell had Charles I beheaded and banned Christmas celebrations, so it was a relief when, after England’s Civil War, Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. That period in British history is called the Restoration.

The anniversary of the Restoration is on May 29:

Maypoles, music and gaiety were also banned. The Calvinistic Puritans were the Taliban of their time.

Like the Taliban, they ruled for the people’s ‘own good’:

The article that barrister Francis Hoar cites says, in part:

The seventeenth century Puritans did not impose their austere rules purely for the sake of it … Their banning of Maypoles and Christmas and football was ultimately about top-down, rationalistic social control to the end of spiritual and ethical purity, an attempt to eliminate anything untidy, spontaneous, and in particular to impose their own (extremely unpopular) ideas within the cultural and social vacuum thereby created.

Moving to the present day, in 1977, pundits predicted that few in Britain cared about the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, especially with the Sex Pistols’ caustic God Save the Queen being banned from the airwaves but purchased in record stores such that the single sold out.

Columnist Rod Liddle remembered the mood well. That year, he, too, was caught up in punk and republicanism. On June 5, 2022, he wrote an article for The Sunday Times: ‘As a teenage punk, I sneered at the Queen. Sadly, the music is almost over’:

I enjoyed the Queen’s Silver Jubilee immensely, shouting out horrible things about our monarch on stage with my punk band at a “Stuff the Jubilee” gig in a pleasant suburb of Middlesbrough. We were in a tent, erected with great magnanimity by the organisers slap bang in the middle of the proper, official Silver Jubilee celebration, with its stalls of cakes and beer wagons and plates bearing pictures of her Maj.

It may have been HM’s Silver Jubilee, but 1977 was also the year of punk, even if its impact on the charts was marginal. It is often suggested that punk was a left-wing phenomenon, but in truth it was far from it — even if one or two of the bands, such as the Clash, later proclaimed their left-wing credentials for the benefit of the very liberal hippy music press. In truth, punk at its core was energetically poujadist. It was lower-middle-class kids who were tired of, or bored with, the sclerotic institutions in our country — the big record companies, the civil service, the BBC, the aristocracy and so on.

It was individualistic, not communitarian. It had no great quarrel with capitalism, only with capitalism done badly. It saw Great Britain as stagnating and it wanted change. It had no time for the unions either — it was the unions that boycotted the pressing of the Sex Pistols’ second single, God Save the Queen.

The Queen represented continuity, much as did Jim Callaghan’s hobbled government. We didn’t want that and nor did the newish leader of the opposition [Margaret Thatcher], who was also lower middle class, despised outdated institutions such as the trade unions and the BBC, and was for individualism

As for 2022, with age, Liddle has had a change of heart:

This weekend’s celebrations are very different. Never before have we craved continuity quite as much as we do now, faced with an array of existential threats from which you can take your pick as to which is the most pressing: newly belligerent Russia, China’s quest for world domination, radical Islam, climate change, weird viruses …

Under a lesser monarch our disaffection with the royal institution — and, as a corollary, with our own history as a nation — might have spilt over long before. But she ruled with a dignity, duty and dexterity that precluded such an eventuality.

I wish I’d remembered, while standing on stage in that tent 45 years ago, the words of an old hippy: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

Returning to 1977, in a retrospective for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, The Telegraph pointed out that people turned out in the millions to celebrate her Silver Jubilee, proving that republicanism was as unpopular then as it is now:

Elizabeth II has demonstrated that, in fact, the monarchs do possess a power: an unactivated power, one that a partisan, career-politician president would hastily trigger – and divide us – but which the Queen handles judiciously. She uses the authority of her office to carry out and promote public duty. And, refreshingly, she simply gets on with things – no grumbling, no complaint.

When the country celebrated her Silver Jubilee, in 1977, the cynics predicted a washout: what was the relevance of royalty in an age of strikes and national decline, they asked? In the end, one republican rally, on Blackheath, attracted just five people and was cancelled. Millions turned out to celebrate the Queen, with such passion that it surprised even her: I had “no idea”, she told a lady in waiting, that the people valued her so much.

On May 30, 2022, the left-wing New Statesman tried to rally its readers around republicanism, but the magazine’s Twitter thread was unimpressive:

The magazine suggests eco-warrior David Attenborough as someone around whom we could all rally — heaven forfend! Ugh!

There can never be a charismatic republican leader, because that is an oxymoron.

And, no, we can’t have Boris, either. Although he’s probably not much of a republican, when he was a boy, he announced to his family:

he would be “world king” one day. 

On Friday, June 3, some broadcasters picked up booing outside of St Paul’s Cathedral as he and his wife arrived for the Queen’s Service of Thanksgiving:

Boris was booed only on one side of the cathedral’s exterior. This is why the BBC did not pick up the sound on the day, whereas some other networks did. It depended on where their film and sound crews were located:

The culprit was a Frenchman:

I do hope that M. Jacquemin did not have the bad grace to take advantage of Boris’s Special Status scheme, granting — to as many EU citizens as cared to apply — official leave to remain in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

Finally, let none of us think that doing away with the British monarchy will resolve child poverty — or even pay for the NHS:

All we would get would be President Blair — UGH:

How awful that would be.

Ireland loves our Queen

Given Britain’s fractious relationship over the centuries which caused the Emerald Isle to achieve independence in 1921, one would expect that the Irish would want no further reminders of the monarch.

In another retrospective for the Platinum Jubilee, The Times published a series of historic milestones about the Queen.

Regarding an independent Ireland, the article says:

Northern Ireland has been a key feature of her reign, during which the Troubles have erupted, calmed and simmered. This conflict hit close to home in 1979 with the IRA’s murder of her cousin, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Time heals many wounds but forgiveness is a choice. So it was, in 2012, she shook the hand of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA man who was then deputy first minister in the province. Queen or not, it was an act of which many would not have been capable.

It came as a direct consequence of her successful state visit to Ireland the year before, the first by a reigning British monarch since independence. The events were examples of where she has perhaps done her greatest work: as a stateswoman.

The Irish were indeed delighted to have the Queen visit in 2011. A 2010 article from the Irish Independent reported that many towns and villages requested that she pay them a visit:

THE British Ambassador to Ireland has revealed he has received dozens of letters from towns and villages across the country inviting Queen Elizabeth to various events.

As speculation grows over a visit by the British monarch, the ambassador Julian King said his government was committed to a visit.

He said he was encouraged by the response among Irish people. Mr King was speaking to reporters in Muckross House during a visit to Killarney, Co Kerry, after accepting an invitation from the chairman of the board of trustees, Marcus Treacy.

Her popularity in Ireland continues. On her Platinum Jubilee weekend, an Irish poll showed that the Queen was more popular than past or present Irish presidents. The Queen scored a 50% approval rating compared to everyone else who scored 40+ per cent or lower.

Unfortunately, this clip from Mark Steyn’s GB News show doesn’t show the poll graphic, but the aforementioned Royal expert Hugo Vickers explained the Queen’s enduring popularity and the hope he has for her successor:

The enduring Commonwealth

The Queen is credited for creating the Commonwealth of Nations affiliated with Britain and/or the Crown.

Any of these nations can pull out of the Commonwealth voluntarily. Neither the Queen nor the British Government can forbid them from doing so.

Australia is once again considering renouncing the Queen as their Head of State. However, we must remember that they have important ties with China that might be persuading them in that direction. The same is happening in the West Indies. Money talks.

Similarly, a nation that has not been part of the British Empire may apply successfully to become a member of the Commonwealth. Rwanda is one such country. It was originally a Belgian trust territory that had been a German colony until the First World War.

A nation can also leave the Commonwealth and rejoin at a later date. The Gambia left in 2013 and rejoined in 2018.

In November 2021, Barbados removed the Queen as its head of state but remains a Commonwealth member.

A Forbes article from December 2021 explains the permutations of this group of nations:

… Queen Elizabeth II currently serves as the Head of State of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

These Queen-led nations are known as “Commonwealth Realms,” which are distinct from the broader 54-nation Commonwealth of nations that have some connection to Great Britain, but do not necessarily have the Queen as Head of State.

The Queen’s role as Head of State is largely ceremonial, and she is represented in each country by a governor-general who carries out the Queen’s day-to-day duties.

In addition to Barbados:

The last country to remove the Queen as Head of State was Mauritius in 1992, and other Caribbean countries that have removed the Queen are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica, which all removed the Queen in the 1970s.

Participation in the Commonwealth is voluntary, and in response to Barbados’s decision to remove the Queen, Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.”

Monarchy — an eminently sensible way forward

The Revd Marcus Walker, whose thoughts have graced my ‘What’s on Anglican priests’ minds’ series, wrote a thoughtful piece for The Critic this month.

In it, he points to the great strengths of the British monarchy:

He begins by giving us the sour republican narrative:

The State Opening of Parliament last month saw three narratives promulgated at the same time by very different people, all of which (deliberately or not) betray a fundamental lack of understanding of monarchy.

The first, by the Left, saw an attempt to heap ridicule on the rituals of the ceremony: of the procession of the Imperial State Crown, of the uniforms worn by those involved.

The second, by a more centrist kind of commentator, asked whether it was fair or just to have as our Head of State a woman of 96 who is no longer able physically to take part in major ceremonies.

The third, by the pro-Putin end of the Right, saw continued attacks on Prince Charles, whom they seem to have anathematised because he likes the environment. The political categorisation is a tad crude, and I’m sure you’ve seen overt and covert republicans using all of these lines over the last few years.

He explains why those narratives are so misguided:

What’s interesting about these attacks is that they unintentionally highlight the strength of monarchy, not its weakness. The ritual is not meaningless; it unveils layers of history. The Commons slamming the door in the face of Black Rod tells of the struggles between Parliament and the King which have been settled in our constitutional framework of the Crown in Parliament.

The Crown has the history of the nation woven into it, bearing within its frame St Edward the Confessor’s sapphire, the Black Prince’s ruby, the Stuart sapphire, and the Cullinan diamond.

Each tells a little bit of the past that brought us to today. In the chamber we have elected parliamentarians, peers, senior judges, bishops: an interweaving of the different perspectives and professions which collectively set the political culture. This will change over the years as the nation changes, and this too will be good.

Ritual is not empty; it tells a story, and all nations have their rituals and their stories. If you are embarrassed by monarchical ritual, I caution you not to cross the Channel and find yourself in Paris for Bastille Day or Moscow for Victory Day. Losing your monarch does not remove your need for ritual and story. What you lose, though, is an embodiment of that story.

He asks us to consider the life cycle that the monarchy represents. A life cycle is something all of us can understand and appreciate:

The human realities of life, death, love, marriage, childbirth (and betrayal, hurt, and divorce) are at the core of the strength of monarchy. They are experiences we all share.

Monarchy, no matter how set-up in trappings of ritual, is a profoundly human institution. Its rhythms are human, as are its failings …

So why not be rid of the Crown and its rituals? Because they hold the space at the centre of our national life, preventing it from being held by a politician. No Trumps for us, no preening Macrons, no sour-faced Putins, no German Steinmeier with his terrible legacy of appeasing Russia. The centre holds, while the political world swirls around it.

Over this month we will be celebrating the Queen’s personal achievements across her 70-year reign, but we will also be celebrating the institution which she has embodied these many years, and doing so by marking in great state that most natural and human of all things: the passing of time.

I will have more on how society has changed over the past 70 years next week and how the Queen has adapted to those changes during her marvellous reign.

At my church, the 8 a.m. service is Holy Communion with the liturgy from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP).

I am one of the privileged few in the Church of England to be able to attend this service every Sunday.

Since the 1980s, the C of E has done everything possible to take the BCP out of use. In 1980 and 1984 (the edition I have), the Church published the Alternative Service Book (ASB), which the satirical magazine Private Eye lampooned for decades in a series called The Alternative Rocky Horror Service Book. The satirists scored a bullseye with every instalment.

A newer prayer book, Common Worship, superseded the ASB in 2000. It is considerably better.

However, what both the ASB and Common Worship have done is to effectively make the BCP obsolete.

The ASB Wikipedia entry says (emphases mine):

The Prayer Book Society soon complained that it was becoming hard to find a church which used the old prayer book and that theological colleges were not introducing students to it.

I can vouch for both complaints.

I’ve been attending my church for nearly 30 years. In that time, we have had either vicars or curates who entered the seminary, often as second careers. They could not reasonably recite the BCP liturgy. (On the other hand, our present incumbent, a young vicar, also a second careerist, does an excellent job.)

As some of these people were older than I am, I can assume only that they were not regular churchgoers in their youth.

In any event, one of the bright aspects of the coronavirus pandemic is that our church is using the BCP exclusively at 8 a.m. on Sunday. This is because the traditional liturgy service from Common Worship calls for the Peace, which involves shaking hands.

It would seem that other C of E churches also adopted the BCP during the pandemic.

An Anglican laywoman recently posed the following question on Twitter and received encouraging replies:

A benefice is a group of churches in one catchment area.

Here’s another encouraging response:

I’ve noticed a rise in people attending BCP services at churches I sing at, Evensong especially popular. Many of the younger generations I speak to prefer it – “it makes sense”. A church using BCP has flourishing choir of young people and many young families in the congregation.

The young vicar of the Anglican church in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, in Greater Manchester is particularly enthusiastic:

The Revd Sarah Hancock’s is a typically welcoming C of E response.

Those uncertain about reciting 17th century prayers can be drawn in:

The BCP liturgy went down well on Zoom when the churches were closed. Those who attended online are now back in church:

There were two enthusiastic responses from Cambridge.

The first is from Westcott House, the city’s Anglican seminary:

The second is from Cambridge University Press:

Coincidentally, my copy of the BCP is from Cambridge University Press. It’s nearly 30 years old and still looks like new. It came with an attractive yet durable slipcase, too.

Nothing would make traditionalists happier than a wider return to the BCP for some services, either on Sunday or during the week.

The BCP really does lift the soul and remind one of the communion of saints, those many generations of devout Anglicans who prayed from it through the centuries.

Long live the BCP.

When abroad on holiday, I still send postcards to friends and family.

A Times columnist, Emma Duncan, also appreciates postcards, spurred on by her late stepfather, who was an MP in the North of England (emphases mine):

Near the end of his very successful nine and a half decades on the planet, as measured by the number of lives brightened by his existence, I asked him whether he had any lessons to pass on about how to live well. He thought for a while, during which I assumed he was brooding over the difficulty of encapsulating the grand philosophy that had guided him through most of a century. “Well,” he said finally, “you can never send too many warm postcards.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Emma Duncan experienced a moment of pleasure recently when she received a thank-you postcard from a friend:

In the digital blizzard in which we live, it is rare to receive anything in physical form other than a catalogue, a bill or a leaflet offering £2 off substandard pizza. But one day this week a postcard landed on my doormat from a friend, thanking me for lending her my coat — my mother’s, a particularly stylish number from the Sixties — outside at a party. As thanks for the service, the sending of a card, which must be bought, written, stamped and posted, was quite over the top. That’s exactly why it gave me such pleasure. The greater the trouble taken to deliver a small gesture of affection, the warmer the payload.

It’s time we revived the ancient, lost custom of sending postcards. They really do warm the heart.

Last week, I was reading through Dr Taylor Marshall’s Twitter feed.

He featured in my Easter Monday post about the Dallas woman who was forbidden from entering her own parish church for not wearing a mask.

Over the 20th century, before my lifetime, the Catholic Church began reforms prior to Vatican II. This post will explore some of them.

The more reforms there are, the more questions the faithful have.

Chrism Mass — Maundy Thursday

In the old days of the Catholic Church, the chrism (oil) used in Baptism and, as it was then known, Extreme Unction (Anointing of the Sick and Dying) was blessed on Maundy Thursday at a daytime Mass attended by clergy and ordinands.

Now anything goes:

Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil Mass

I was too young to attend Easter Vigil Mass in Latin and wasn’t even around for pre-1955 Masses.

As such, this tweet piqued my interest at the weekend:

To know that this older rite is being celebrated around the world is heartening, indeed.

It took me a while to delve into the background and find out where the church is as well as the identity of the celebrant. Fortunately, the Easter Sunday Mass (below) has the Live Chat operating, which gave me a good start.

The YouTube channel, What Catholics Believe, is run by the priests belonging to the Society of Saint Pius V (SSPV).

The priest celebrating the Mass in the videos below is the Revd William Jenkins, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, in Norwood, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The SSPV is a group of priests whose founding members broke away from Bishop Lefebvre’s Society of St Pius X (SSPX) in 1983.

The SSPV did not think that the SSPX had returned to the traditional Latin Mass and Catholic teachings sufficiently. They formed their own group, named after the pope who developed the Tridentine Mass in the 16th century: Saint Pius V.

The SSPV is based on Long Island, in Oyster Bay Cove, New York. The Society has its own bishop, five permanent priories, and a network of chapels and churches in 14 American states. The SSPV does not have canonical standing with Rome. The SSPV considers the possibility that the Holy See is currently unoccupied, meaning that they have not fully recognised the past few popes, including the present incumbent.

Below is the video of the pre-1955 Latin Mass celebrated on Holy Saturday by the Revd William Jenkins at Immaculate Conception Church. I watched all of it. It took me back to my post-1955 Tridentine Mass childhood, which preceded the reforms of Vatican II:

Look at the number of people attending. Women were traditionally required to wear lace mantillas, although there are a few young women with no head covering. Best of all, during our era of coronavirus: no masks!

As Mass begins, the statues on the altar are covered. That is because the Triduum — period of mourning — ends with the Easter Vigil Mass. After the introductory prayers, two of the altar boys carefully remove the purple fabric from the covered statues.

There is no Paschal candle, so it must have been a later development.

This Mass has more altar attendants than usual because of its ceremonial and celebratory nature. Incense is used to great effect, borrowing early worship traditions from the Old Testament. The fragrance from the incense in the thurifer ascends heavenward in the desire to make all the aspects of worship pleasing to God.

There are only two readings: the Epistle and the Gospel. The sermon follows. The sermon was not as scriptural as I would have liked, but it was good. The only thing I disagreed with was the priest’s saying that Mary anointed her son’s body. There is no mention of that in the New Testament. Other women named Mary did the anointing and visiting the tomb on the day of the Resurrection.

The next part that is worth watching and listening to is the consecration of the bread and wine. The priest prays quietly, therefore, as was true centuries ago, the congregation needs to know when the important parts of the prayer are being read, so that they, too, may bow their heads and pray. Hence the frequent ringing of bells by one or more of the altar boys.

Everyone approaches the altar for Holy Communion. They kneel at the altar rail. The priest blesses each communicant with the Sign of the Cross and places a consecrated host on each person’s tongue. (The cup is a much more recent development.)

It is wonderfully solemn. I was struck by the presence of people of all ages, from small children, to adolescents, to university-age students as well as adults, older and younger. If there were more Latin Masses, there would be more Catholics in the pews, that’s for sure!

Easter Sunday Masses

This video has back-to-back Easter Sunday Masses with the same celebrant at the same church:

All are well attended.

Some viewers might notice red and green lights early on in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. That is a shot of the confessional: red when occupied, green when the next penitent can enter.

Again, many people attended these Masses over Easter. What does that tell us? Traditional liturgy attracts a wide cross-section of worshippers, more that a modern service. Even my fellow Protestants can figure out from this what works and what doesn’t.

Those interested in more pre-1955 Latin Masses from the SSPV can view them here. These are viewed by people all over the world.

Dominus vobiscum.

(This ends my posts on Holy Week and Easter 2021.)

Swieconka basket annhetzelgunkelcomHoly Saturday is normally the time when some Christians around the world, especially those from Eastern Europe, take baskets of Easter food for their priest to bless.

These foods, particularly the basket of Polish items in the illustration, have a religious symbolism. You can find out more in this post:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Four years ago, Britain’s top home cook and culinary television presenter Mary Berry had a short series on food eaten around the world at Easter. It was a fascinating series, summarised below:

Easter food explored — part 1 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

Easter food explored — part 2 (Mary Berry, BBC — 2016)

This next post has more about Easter food traditions, in France, Spain, Portugal, Austria and, until a few decades ago, Algeria:

Holy Saturday: preparing for an Easter feast (2017)

Of course, this year, Easter will be different. Because of coronavirus lockdowns, most of us are not allowed to visit with family members or friends outside of our own household.

I could not get lamb this year because of the lack of supermarket deliveries. We will have duck instead. Lamb will be delivered later in April. Oh, well.

Daytime Lectionary readings

jesus-laid-in-a-tomb-f5462516571Spiritually, most of Holy Saturday is mournful. Jesus was in the tomb, having been attended to by friends — but not the Apostles.

Here are the daytime readings:

Readings for Holy Saturday — daytime

This is the Gospel reading, which was read on Palm Sunday (Year A) in the Liturgy of the Passion. The burial of Jesus took place on Friday evening and the sealing of the tomb took place on Saturday (emphases mine):

Matthew 27:57-66

27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.

27:58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

27:59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

27:60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

27:61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

27:62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate

27:63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’

27:64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

27:65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Easter Vigil readings

On Saturday evening, the mood changes. Lent comes to an end and many Catholics and High Church Anglicans attend a lengthy but beautiful Easter vigil service, about which you can read more in this post. For centuries, this was the day when catechumens — those studying to be Christians — were baptised:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Although the body of Jesus was still in the tomb on Saturday, His spirit had gone to Sheol, or the place of the dead to free the souls of children and righteous adults.  Jesus descended into this ‘Hell’, although the limbo He went to is not like the Hell or Purgatory that we know today.  His presence illuminated all these righteous souls from the beginning of time — Adam, Eve, Noah, Moses — and Sheol became a paradise until Jesus’s Ascension into Heaven.  Upon His Ascension, Jesus opened the doors to Heaven for them, where they live with Him now and forever.

The Vigil service anticipates the Resurrection, and the Gospel reading is about what happened on Sunday morning.

This service has more readings than usual. Three readings from the Old Testament must be read; the passage from Exodus 14 is mandatory:

Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21

14:10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the LORD.

14:11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?

14:12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

14:13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.

14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

14:15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.

14:16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.

14:17 Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.

14:18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”

14:19 The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.

14:20 It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.

14:22 The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:23 The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.

14:24 At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic.

14:25 He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

14:26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.”

14:27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea.

14:28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

14:29 But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

14:30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

14:31 Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

15:20 Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.

15:21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

Psalm

This is one of the Psalms, recalling the Exodus and God’s omnipotence. Verse 8 prophesies Christ as the water of life; Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 10:4:

Psalm 114

114:1 When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,

114:2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

114:3 The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.

114:4 The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.

114:5 Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?

114:6 O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?

114:7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob,

114:8 who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

Epistle

Paul writes of the Resurrection beautifully. Our Lord conquered death and, thanks to Him, so will all believers.

Romans 6:3-11

6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.

6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Gospel

The Gospel reading describes an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone over the tomb where Jesus lay. The angel’s appearance was as bright as lightning. Note that the two Marys are the ones who check on the tomb — not the Apostles.

Matthew 28:1-10

28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

28:2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

28:3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.

28:4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.

28:5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.

28:6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

28:7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

28:8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

28:9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.

28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

It is impossible to imagine what the two women experienced at that moment in their extreme awe and boundless joy.

I hope we feel the same, knowing that Jesus came to bring us to life eternal.

My latest instalment on what Episcopal priests are thinking about involves respecting the Church calendar.

The following tweets come from the Revd Scott Gunn, an Anglo-Catholic serving in a Midwestern city. He is also the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

Epiphany

We are in the last few Sundays of the season of Epiphany, so let’s make the most of them. We should be grateful for the Lord God sending His only begotten Son who died for our sins:

And, while we are at it, let’s forget this abominable modern concept of ‘Ordinary Time’ in the Church calendar, as promulgated by Roman Catholics. Sadly, it has spread to some liturgical Protestant churches. How can Sunday worship or the Church calendar ever involve something ‘ordinary’?

Someone replying suggested developing an Episcopal Church of Twitter. Count me in. It’s a darn sight more traditional and meaningful than many Episcopal Church witterings. That goes for the Church of England, too.

Septuagesima Sunday

In my post with the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany — Year A, I later updated it to say that February 9, 2020, was Septuagesima Sunday, the seventh Sunday before Easter. Next Sunday will be Sexagesima Sunday and the one after that Quinquagesima Sunday.

Until Vatican II modernised the Catholic Church, that was the Sunday that signalled the beginning of Lent for traditionalists. In old money, Lent would have started on Monday, February 10. Now Lent begins on Ash Wednesday for nearly everyone. You can read more about the Sundays before Easter below, including the season of Shrovetide in my post below:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

The readings for the latter Sundays in the season of Epiphany begin to move towards a call to repentance, and this was evident in the first reading from Isaiah as well as the Gospel reading for February 9.

Scott Gunn reminded us of our traditions, which some of his readers had also noticed:

Other Episcopal priests also remembered it was Septuagesima Sunday:

There was a bit more about the importance of the Gesimas in terms of our souls:

Holy Week

Then we discover that Holy Week is a separate season from Lent. This I did not know. I was not alone:

Either way, penitence, prayer and fasting still apply to the final days before Easter.

Corpus Christi

Mr Gunn also reminded us of the feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Thursday or the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. (Corpus Christi is Latin for Body of Christ.) It is still commemorated in the Church of England on the first Thursday after Trinity:

This is the modern version of the Collect from that liturgy:

Lord Jesus Christ,

we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament

you have given us the memorial of your passion:

grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries

of your body and blood

that we may know within ourselves

and show forth in our lives

the fruits of your redemption;

for you are alive and reign with the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

An Episcopal priest replying to him was in a lather, tweeting in all caps. It culminated in this exchange, which clarified that the priest was angry about Maundy Thursday as the institution of Holy Communion at the Last Supper:

Oh, dear. I connect both with Holy Communion.

In closing, it is good to see that so many clergy — and laity — still place importance on the traditional Sundays of the Church calendar. Long may it last.

I hope more follow their example.

Centuries ago in the east and the north of England, shortly after Epiphany, agricultural workers returned to the fields following a rest during the Christmas season.

Plough Monday was the first Monday after Epiphany. Although this tradition has its origins with the Northern Goths and Swedes, as the Church became rooted in England, it became a religious day with farmers bringing ploughs to the church to be blessed and donations made to keep the church’s plough light lit all year round, as a way of asking for God’s blessing on the land.

During the Reformation, the religious aspect was abolished by law. The day turned into a time of secular celebration with plough competitions and a good meal at the end of the day before a return to toil the next day in the cold outdoors.

You can read more about Plough Monday below. It is still celebrated in some towns, though often on a weekend now:

The English tradition of Plough Monday (2016)

Plough Monday — the Monday after Epiphany (2017)

January 7 was traditionally known as St Distaff’s Day, a facetious name for the day when women returned to spinning wool, flax and other fibres after Christmas holidays. A distaff is a dowel used in spinning. ‘Distaff’ is a word still used today to describe a wife: ‘distaff half’. It is also used in horse racing; a distaff race features all-female horses. You can read more about St Distaff’s Day in the post below:

St Distaff’s Day — Distaff Day: January 7

It was a day that featured a return to work, but not without some gentle fun and games involving ladies pouring water over men who attempted to burn their flax.

From these traditions, we can better understand the ancient tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, an annual time of rest for many.

The next instalment of Forbidden Bible Verses will be posted tomorrow.

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