Friday, April 29, 2011

Diana's Prayer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Amidst the formality of His Grace's liturgy, the magnificent hymns, the exquisite anthems and majestic grandeur of the setting and the occasion, one might be forgiven for not detecting the presence of the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales in the proceedings. But she was there: indeed, if you listened closely, you could hear her words.

Prince William and Catherine Middleton surreptitiously injected a little informality into the proceedings, even a glimpse of humour. So brief was it, and so disguised by the stateliness and dignity of the Bishop of London, that one might easily have mistaken it for yet another modernisation of the Book of Common Prayer. But at the end of his Address to the couple, Dr Richard Chartres read out a sensitive, honest and quite intimate prayer which had been written by William and Catherine themselves. They might well have been chanelling Diana:
God our Father, we thank you for our families, for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage. In the busy-ness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is almost the fulfilment of the wish of Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, expressed in his oration at her funeral in the same place 14 years ago:
And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.

We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been born and will always respect and encourage them in their royal role but we, like you, recognise the need for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have expected nothing less from us.
In the vulnerable informality of this simple prayer, with its focus on compassion for those who suffer, you can hear the open singing, the joy, the laughter, and the spiritual and emotional honesty of Diana. And what a cheeky glance was there.


Anonymous not a machine said...

I thought it all seemed so much their wedding , it was elegant and beautiful. They were not lost in the massive state occasion and despite the media glare managed a few intimate moments which can only be theirs alone as they should be.

The religous aspects were all done well , and the music inside to the guests must have sounded quite special.

I perhaps looked at earl Spencer when thinking of Diana, both William and Harry chatting comfortably and I think your grace may be correct , she was remembered not as object ,but as mother and sister whose love was undoubtably with her son for his occasion and both of them future happiness.

I would think many weddings have moments of difficulty , more so in these days of shorter marriages ,it is perhaps a reminder not of Dianas end story , but how love endures and how we remeber it and it remembers us .

29 April 2011 at 17:33  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...

...'one might be forgiven for not detecting the presence of the spirit of Diana, Princess of Wales in the proceedings. But she was there: indeed, if you listened closely, you could hear her words'.

This is where lays the danger of setting Cate up to be knocked down by vitually challenging her before she has started to compete with the pop memory and myth of Diana.

As popular as she was, Diana was no saint by any stretch of the imagination. Who knows, she may have even converted to Islam and produced a muslim stepbrother to William and Harry had things worked out for the Fyeds.

Sad to see sentimental mush like this from HG, one expects to find in trash-lit magazines, but not here at the font. Not only that but it's so unfair to suggest that the words and sentiments expressed by the couple were anything other than expressions of their own maturity and a reflection of their grounded worldliness.

Give them credit for being their own people and let the 'sainted' ghost of Diana fade.

29 April 2011 at 17:59  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Oh Your Grace - I agree that her spirit was there. How could anyone not remember, if they saw the last great ceremony at the Abbey?... How, today, could the world not remember?... How, today, could we expect her sons (or anyone in that family) to forget?

Her sons loved her. So did many, many others, though not with that depth or knowledge of the tragedy. For it was a great tragedy, and I've always thought the musical link with Hamlet ('flights of angels'..) was inspired.

No - not one of the rest of is Diana's Judge - ours is but to look and learn............ about love.

Which is what these two young people place before us.

30 April 2011 at 06:13  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Shakespeare's Hamlet has had his revenge when those words are spoken,he has had the revenge, destroyed the serpent and our 'old stock' to borrow the term he uses to Ophelia . Or in other words he has reversed the fall. Diana did not do that, as kind and caring as she undoubtedly was. It would be a mistake to my mind to use the phrase that Horatio uses for Hamlet in this instance.

I have respect and admiration for Diana, though I was quite young when she died. However I agree with Peter Hitchens that the media reaction to her and her death and the circus of her funeral was somewhat out of joint. Her death was a personal tragedy for the Princes, but I do not think it is wise to hold up as a model of royalty or as a shadow always to plague the monarchy, our royalty and our nation as an institution(of course she will always be in the lives of the Princes.). If Diana was there yesterday it was as a mother and not as a Princess.

30 April 2011 at 06:44  
Anonymous len said...

Diana brought a warmth and compassion to the 'Royals,'bridging the gap between 'them' and 'us'.People loved her for it.William is following in his Mothers footsteps.
It is a testimony to Diana.

30 April 2011 at 07:43  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Mr. Westcountryman - I disagree with Hitchens. The funeral at Westminster solaced a deeply shocked World. The media? They sacrificed Diana ---- and Hitchens is part of that.

Revenge? Yesterday's reading from Romans 12 stopped short of: "Dearly Beloved, avenge not yourselves ..." You're right - the words of our young couple manifest love and duty; not a pile of bodies on the stage at the end of the play.

My last glance at Hamlet left me uncertain of its resolution. But Tavener's application in Athene was apt because Diana was a sweet Princess; she earned her rest; and multitudes prayed that angels should sing her to it. Nearly as many prayed for William and Kate yesterday; especially if we remembered..

Living memories are not simplistic models, shadows, and plagues. Rather, the longer we follow the monarchy - on film, TV, print, live appearances, etc - the more it emblematises the continuity of lives within history. So we seek out perspectives from the contexts; we infer lessons when faced with juxtapositions and historical parallels. I think His Grace's quote here reflects those processes.

Moreover, as the emblem and the Bishop remind us: we all answer to a greater Judge. The Abbey of our Holy Isles enhances that message, even as it did yesterday: to the World.

30 April 2011 at 08:54  
Blogger McMurdo said...

You're getting too sentimental now. The fact is, however nice she was, Diana was an adulteress.

30 April 2011 at 09:04  
Anonymous non mouse said...

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Nobody's recommending adultery.
Nobody says she was perfect.
But those who set themselves up as Judges, Juries, and Executioners should look to their own glass walls: even if they're not in fishbowls.

30 April 2011 at 09:41  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

I disagree about Diana. She was undoubtedly a kind and generous woman, but in my opinion she was an adequate but not great consort to the heir to the throne. I think the media hyped her up far more than she deserved

Hamlet is about revenge, on the service or literal meaning the revenge of Hamlet against his Uncle for killing his father, seducing his mother and usurping his crown. However at heart it is the revenge of Man against the devil, which of course is an interior, spiritual 'revenge' far more than anything external. This 'revenge' is one that must be pursued with no qualms.

The basic message of the play is contained in the line Hamlet says to Ophelia in Act 3, Scene.

'for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of

What Shakespeare means here is that we cannot plaster a few virtues over our old stock, original sin, and be made new and complete. We must revenge ourselves on the serpent, which is another way of saying we must reverse the fall. Shakespeare was too consummate a metaphysician, too peerless an artist to put the line about the flight of angels into Horatio's mouth when Hamlet dies, without it having great meaning. It is a symbol that Hamlet has been sanctified.

This is not applicable to Diana, though it does hold some interest to us now. If only because it touches on a prevalent modern heresy; that of humanitarianism. Diana is lauded for her humanitarian work, as if this was the single or most important field of virtue, as if this could 'inoculate our old stock'.

It leads also to the view of monarchy I share with Shakespeare, who as Dover Wilson tells us still lived in the world of Plato and St.Augustine. The monarch above all is a moral symbol, example and educator for the nation. To overrate the humanitarian virtues, as the media does with Diana, is therefore a danger.

Beyond that the hype surrounding her and her funeral seemed to exhibit some important negative effects of modern culture and society and the constant use of her as a shadow across the royal family, the monarchy and the nation is not positive in my opinion.

I don't have anything against Diana, a lot of what I mention is not really her fault. I just do not accept a lot of the exaggerated praise and hype that seems to have built up around her.

30 April 2011 at 13:05  
Anonymous len said...


Surely all you suggest above HAS been accomplished by Christ; or are you suggesting that we can do a better job?

Re Diana she was not perfect but do you know anyone who is? ( Royalty or otherwise?)

30 April 2011 at 18:21  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

We can only accomplish it through Christ, of course. The Saint and Sage knows more than any our reliance on him. Christ's grace though should not be an excuse to stop our spiritual journey merely at salvation or what the medieval Church call purgatory. We should give all ourselves to Christ, and with his aid, to seek, as far as is possible in this life, sanctification.

Salvation is only the beginning of the journey towards God, and therefore truest selves. This is what the traditional Church, Eastern, Celtic and Western, has always taught.

Christ is oerfect, it is for us to become Christ-like, with his help. I think Diana was a good, compassionate and generous woman and I cannot make a window into her soul. However there are far better examples for Christian virtue, the media and popular focus on her humanitarianism is in fact a negative thing. It perpetuates the idea the value of religion and virtue is simply in social charity.

1 May 2011 at 01:28  
Anonymous len said...


I agree with you on principle.
Sanctification is an ongoing process.Christians (once born again) are a work in progress and are bound to fail on occasion.
I do not know if Diana was a Christian( even born again)but the qualities of compassion and empathy with those suffering are surely Christian virtues?

1 May 2011 at 07:44  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Of course they're Christ virtues, though they are only a couple and need to be balanced by a fully virtuous existence, particularly the inner virtues As Christ says, someone who looks on a woman with lust has committed adultery in his heart. The fullest virtue is not simply the following of extrinsic morality and the humanitarian and social, indeed it is the modern error to take the role of religion to be humanitarian and social, but inner virtues and reach the truest Knowledge, Love and Faith in Christ. It is only through Christ that works gain a true virtue of course.

1 May 2011 at 08:02  
Anonymous MrJ said...

With all respect, even deference, to Westcountryman, surely all can be aware that Shakespeare, the author of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and any of the other plays which may be proposed as relevant, will not have been unmindful of....

Leviticus 19:18 (King James Version) "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."

and Deuteronomy 32:35 (King James Version) "To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste."

And those were implicit in the Reading from Romans, and in the prayer of the marrying couple read for them by the Bishop of London.

While Dover Wilson among others have given much in guidance for a fuller understanding of Shakespeare's works, that may not suffice without what had been given in the Book of Common Prayer.

The empty tomb, after what had gone before and came after, is the greatest reversal, greater even than the baptising by John.

1 May 2011 at 19:51  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2 May 2011 at 01:06  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Of course it is the greatest reversal. That reversal is not just historical though, it happens within us all, through Christ, and it should be continued as far as each individual is truly capable in this life.

On revenge, the point is that revenge against the devil, which is another way of saying turning our back utterly on worldliness, is perfectly acceptable, indeed it is necessary and must be done without holding back. The devil represents all the downward tendencies in the cosmos and in the microcosm within ourselves, to not avenge ourselves on him without mercy leaves a corner of ourselves that is not fully Christ's.

When it comes to the literal revenge against his uncle in Hamlet, one must firstly allow it as dramatic license in order to allow the deeper meaning to come through, as we do in say Job where God appears to allow Satan to slaughter Job's family to test him. Secondly we must see that Hamlet's revenge is simply in a sense his dispensing of justice against an uncle who needs to be punished for murdering his brother, seducing this brother's wife and usurping the throne, which incidentally adversely effects the whole Kingdom, which for Shakespeare, who still lived in the world of Plato and St.Augustine, must reflect the moral quality of its King.

2 May 2011 at 02:33  
Anonymous MrJ said...

May it yet remain open to understanding that the Gospels, the Book of Common Prayer, the works of Shakespeare and of certain others were inspired by something which leads beyond Plato, Augustine of Hippo and all whom those great names evoke.

2 May 2011 at 09:36  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

When one gazes on the implacable face of an icon, one glimpses something of its archetype, of Christ. This does not mean the Christ's essence is has anything added to or taken away from through the icon nor that one must approach Christ through it, it is just one aid to approaching Christ. These sages and their work are not too different to the icon, though I find it strange you appear to be saying that St.Augustine of all men does not evoke Christ's name.

2 May 2011 at 11:52  
Anonymous len said...


I am afraid you are' going off on one again',
Gazing at icons (Idols). Can Catholics(of greater or lesser varieties) not escape their' golden calf`s'.

The Holy Spirit is the revealer of Christ.

If you(or anyone else) participate in icon gazing you could be in for a Hell of a shock!

2 May 2011 at 15:19  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

So icons, which are not worshiped but used as aids and as a reflection of Christ's archetype which takes nothing from him, are idolatry? But trying to constrain God to Scripture, referring his inspiration and revelation, and therefore himself totally to Scripture, as if a book of human language could contain all the veritable image of the infinite and absolute Father(when human thought itself could not.), is not idolatry?

3 May 2011 at 00:43  
Anonymous len said...


3 May 2011 at 20:28  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

At least you are willing to defend you seeming worship of the Bible and belief it is the better part of Christ in depth, I see.

4 May 2011 at 00:51  
Anonymous len said...

I don`t know how you can get things so, wrong so consistently,you are a testimony to error.

Jesus came into the world to testify to what truth is. Jesus also said:

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." - John 5:24

Jesus never said anything about gazing at icons, the clue is in the above text,see what you can make of it................

4 May 2011 at 08:25  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4 May 2011 at 11:02  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Jesus is the Word, but the term Word that John uses in the opening of his gospel does not mean Scripture, it means the Logos, the creative principle of creation. This creative is through Christ's role as the very image of the Father. This is in fact shows that creativity is divine and that the image reflects the archetype. Nothing exists that doesn't come through Christ and nothing is not therefore an image of Christ. Different parts and different degrees of him are manifested in the different parts of creation, the more perfect an object or person the more they are an image of Christ. Icons reflect the image of Christ and contain something of his essence(like all things.)in a particularly evocative way, in exactly the same way as the Bible. So you have it wrong, as usual because you haven't take time to understand the real meaning and history of Christianity and its long tradition. A simple examination of the Fathers and knowledge of the true context of the NT could have told you this.

4 May 2011 at 11:03  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

- 'Different parts and different degrees of him are manifested in the different parts of creation,'

It would have probably been better to say different parts manifest different 'qualities' of him in different degrees and combinations and to remind the reader I'm using written terminology, which can only marginally capture the real insight in this case, very provisionally.

And obviously icons, and Scripture, manifest his essence without taking anything from it or adding anything to it.

4 May 2011 at 14:25  
Anonymous len said...


I am never going to agree with you we are poles apart!
I will leave you studying your icons and hope you get out of them whatever it is you are expecting to get from them!.
Polycarp was an important saint, note what Polycarp wrote in the mid-second century:

I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others ? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XI. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Thus, Polycarp says that those who practice idolatry, even if they profess Christ, will be judged as a heathen!
Melito of Sardis

There are, however, persons who say: It is for the honour of God that we make the image: in order, that is, that we may worship the God who is concealed from our view. But they are unaware that God is in every country, and in every place, and is never absent, and that there is not anything done and He knoweth it not. Yet thou, despicable man! within whom He is, and without whom He is, and above whom He is, hast nevertheless gone and bought thee wood from the carpenter's, and it is carved and made into an image insulting to God. To this thou offerest sacrifice, and knowest not that the all-seeing eye seeth thee, and that the word of truth reproves thee, and says to thee: How can the unseen God be sculptured? Nay, it is the likeness of thyself that thou makest and worshippest. Because the wood has been sculptured, hast thou not the insight to perceive that it is still wood, or that the stone is still stone? The gold also the workman: taketh according to its weight in the balance. And when thou hast had it made into an image, why dose thou weigh it? Therefore thou art a lover of gold, and not a lover of God...

Notice that Melito taught against the use of images/idols/icons AND then taught NOT to accept them even if it was handed down by fathers (in other words, do not rely on traditions that say that idols are correct). Since Melito is considered to be both a saint and a 'father' of the Church by those Roman Catholics and Orthodox, then they should heed what he said.
....................................Tertullian wrote:

The principal crime of the human race, the highest guilt charged upon the world, the whole procuring cause of judgment, is idolatry...

( I could add a lot more but space prohibits it.)

4 May 2011 at 18:41  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Note Melito seems to be talking about pagan idols. Note also he starts with the very argument I've been making, that Christ is in every place, he does not mean this sentimentally or vaguely but in something like the sense I've been describing. I suggest you examine St.John of Damascus' defenses of Icon and the Ecumenical Councils which denounced the heresy(note heresy.) of iconoclasm.

5 May 2011 at 00:41  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

As St.John of Damascus wrote;

" Yet at the same time, "under the Old Covenant God commanded images to be made: first the tabernacle, and then everything in it.....If we attempted to make an image of the invisible God, this would be sinful indeed," he writes, and "if we made images of men and believed them to be gods...we would be truly impious. We do neither of these things. But we are not mistaken if we make the image of God incarnate, Who was seen on earth in the flesh, associated with men, and in His unspeakable goodness assumed the nature, feeling, form, and color of our flesh...."And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It is obvious to everyone that Flesh is matter, and that it is created. I salute matter and I approach it with reverence, and I worship that through which my salvation has come. I honor it, not as God, but because it is full of divine grace and strength."

5 May 2011 at 00:48  
Anonymous len said...

Westcountryman, We could go on on forever with this but with great respect I must draw a line under this.

The Word of God is given that we do not stray from the Truth, and Idol worship(in whatever form) is clearly forbidden. Idols are clearly linked to the demonic that is why they are forbidden(along with other occult practices.)
If you wish to continue with your practices then' on your own head be it'.

5 May 2011 at 07:50  
Blogger Westcountryman said...

Indeed Idolatry is wrong, whether it is treating images, the Bible or anything in life as end in itself. Obviously though there is a use of the Bible, icons and most things in life which is not idolatrous but is godly. In the case of icons this has been wonderfully demonstrated by the Church Fathers, early Christian sages and the ecumenical councils. Indeed as the Councils proclaim iconoclasm is heresy.

"We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the divine nature, ... which is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands..... Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being alone — for the honor accorded to the image passes over to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in it the reality of what is there represented."
-The Seventh Ecumenical Council.

5 May 2011 at 09:50  
Anonymous len said...

It is without a doubt that history proves the use of images and pictures of Jesus Christ for any purpose was of pagan origins and then later approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Again, let me be as clear as I am able – the Roman Catholic Church removed the second commandment from the Bible in order to substantiate the practice and use of icons and pictures of Jesus in their church.

Did God have a solid position on the prohibition of idols and images in the Old Testament narratives, and did He clearly state this position to His chosen people? The answer to this is a resounding “yes” in both points.

What is an icon ? The word is Greek, and means an “image or representation.” Historically this name designates what they would consider sacred representations of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, his “immaculate Mother,” and His “saints.” The Seventh Ecumenical Council was famous for bringing all this to fruition. The restoration of image-worship by the Seventh Ecumenical council was finalized in 787.

Why would we turn to painted pictures, instead of the Bible? In my estimation the answer is easy – the work needed to see Christ in the Bible is harder and more difficult than quickly getting a fix from an image with a quaint saying or Scripture verse attached to it.

Augustine of Hippo (4th c.)
“Thus, they erred, who sought Christ and his apostles not in the sacred writings, but on painted walls.

There are Millions of deluded souls indoctrinated into Catholic traditions who probably don`t realise that worshipping(or 'venerating' as the Catholic hierarchy] slyly put it) Idols or Icons are an affront to God.

5 May 2011 at 18:38  

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