Saturday, 8 October 2022

Ritual, Royalty - and Rosary : the procession to Westminster Abbey

I wanted to put on here something to do with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, watched by millions across the world.   I've chosen the procession from Westminster Hall, where her body had lain in state, to Westminster Abbey where the Funeral Service then followed. The sequence lasts some 16 minutes, with no commentary, and my choice might seem surprising. It consists mainly of military marching, and is highly ritualised, the bagpipe and drums music accompanying the rhythm of the young ratings, the royal family and others as they make the short journey. Yet this ritual holds me each time I have watched it, interspersed as it is with simple but moving moments such as the sailors bowing their heads when they arrive at the Abbey. 

As Catholics we are very familiar with ritual, especially that of the Mass itself. Very often it can "carry" a lot, say so much with its few actions and words.  I have noticed this is particularly true at funerals, when the very thing that Catholics fear might put off non-Catholic visitors actually can speak to, enable and help each and every mourner to feel whatever they are feeling and enter into the occasion.  I remember celebrating the funerals of my parents, where I think I was only able to do so because saying Mass is what I do every day.  I was "carried" by the ritual. The funeral of the Queen "carried" if we wanted it to, maybe our own bereavements too, and the passing not only of our monarch, but also of an era - stretching back through such a long life to the Empire, the two World Wars, and who knows whatever else the Britsih carry in our collective memory.

Perhaps this helps us to understand other ritual type prayers and practices, such as the Rosary.  The repetition of Hail Marys puts off many people. But I believe that it is this very aspect of the Rosary that enables it to carry whatever is going on in our mind, heart or life at that moment.  Each morning nowadays I experience a period of stiffness and/or pain as my lower limbs "wake up". As part of this process I pray five decades sitting on my bed, and try to put into the ritual and repetition the day ahead and whatever else is going on - stuff good and not so good - and the pain of the moment. The very ritual at the very least helps the process, and perhaps even helps to make sense of things that are too deep or painful to put into words -  just like the marching of those sailors for a quarter of an hour at Westminster.

No comments:

Post a Comment