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When I was a Mirfield student training for the priesthood it was generally expected that I would spend the hours not taken up by either church, lectures or meals in the confines of my room diligently writing essays.
Of course, given the rich social life of the College I did no such thing and squandered my time in riotous living (at least, as far as that is possible whilst living within the confines of a monastery). But one piece of work captivated me so much I actually put some effort into it. It was an essay about the liturgy of the English coronation service; as a result, I’m now a mine of useless information on the subject.
For example, did you know that the coronation rite in one form or another has been in use in this country since at least 856 AD (for the coronation of Queen Judith of Wessex)? Or that it is now the only Western coronation service in which the sovereign is actually crowned? Or that it is the only remaining coronation to take place within an overtly Christian service – the Eucharist? And how about the fact that Queen Elizabeth I – the first Supreme Governor of the Church of England – was crowned in what was essentially a mediaeval Roman Catholic ritual? And then there are the amusing oddities of the 1953 coronation service which, because it was embedded within the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service, can be considered an authorised service of the Church of England and, as such, is the only BCP service to use the more ritualistic term ‘altar’ (as opposed to the Protestant ‘table’). I could go on, but I’ll be kind and spare you…
When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in Westminster Abbey on the 2nd June 1953 she was unique amongst European heads of state in that her inauguration resembled more the ordination of a bishop than the enthronement of a secular monarch. The wearing of priestly garments, the anointing with chrism, the presentation of the Bible and the symbols of spiritual and temporal authority underlined that this was the beginning of a life-long calling to obey God and humbly serve His people; a vocation that (whilst not one she would have chosen) Her Majesty has taken to heart ever since. We are truly blessed to have a monarch who over many years has willingly undertaken the role of servant to the people of the United Kingdom and beyond.
This weekend the nation celebrates the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne (and the 69th anniversary of her coronation), and we in Wakefield will be taking part by holding a Service of Thanksgiving to mark the Platinum Jubilee this Saturday, to which all are welcome. It will be an opportunity to reflect on seventy years of selfless dedication and devotion to this country and to the Commonwealth, to offer prayers for Her Majesty’s continuing work and for her health and wellbeing, and to give thanks for her faithfulness, wisdom, and care in often difficult and challenging circumstances throughout her long reign. With this in mind I hope you all have a joyful weekend. God save The Queen!
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