Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Royal Wedding - Christian marriage

One feature of the Royal Wedding that was very striking was that this was emphatically a Christian marriage, and that the service addressed that unashamedly.

Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange rings in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey

Such a Royal wedding is clearly going to be according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England by law established, but this ceremony was much more emphatically so than some have been in recent decades.

The fact that it was exclusively Anglican, with other church men as guests rather than ecumenical participants, stressed the fact that there is an Established Church with claims to address the nation. The prayers offered, the choice of hymns and music, the liturgical choreography and, perhaps above all the Bishop of London' s sermon, ending with its quotation of the prayer composed by the Duke and Duchess, stressed that this was a serious Christian marriage. The Archbishop of Canterbury had commented on the seriousness of the couple's approach in an interview a few days previously. He may, perhaps, have had at the back of his mind Archbishop Runcie's later comments to his biographer about the personal ill-preparedness of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981.

However much of this can be credited to the Archbishop, the Bishop and the Dean of Westminster, I am sure that the lead, and the final approval, for such an approach must have some from Prince William and his bride. That augers well for them and their attitude to both their marriage and to the life-long task that faces them.

Furthermore a huge audience worldwide witnessed and heard an exposition of the traditional Christian concept of marriage. The modified, but succinct and classical Prayer Book language with its outline of the purpose of marriage, as well as the in the ceremonial and spoken acts that surrounded the sacramental union of man and wife, expounded the theology and high seriousness of the calling being entered into. The fact that the couple to be married combined that understanding with obvious love for each other underlined the point. Their position may be exceptional, but the essential human simplicity of marriage came accross - the idea was made accessible to anyone watching in a way that was unmistakeable.

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