Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Word Given



I am not a raging Monarchist but I think the Queen is a good thing. She's a bit of a mystery, we know her through the reports of other people. For the most part she herself keeps silent, happier to wave than to speak. When she does speak her words are heavily scripted but here are some of her own words, made on her 21st birthday:
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
What fascinates me is that Monarchy, which is, let us not pretend, feudal, it is fundamentally about a "word given" and promises made it is a contradiction of democracy and comes from an entirely different mindset. Feudal society was essentially contractual, based on giving promises, on giving one's word and keeping it come what may.

A French friend used to tell a story about a very English couple in bed together. She finishes a romantic novel, closes it and after a moments thought says, "Cyril, I can't remember the last time you told me that you loved me".
He replied, "Audrey, I told you 45 years ago, on the night we became engaged that I loved you. If I changed my mind I would have let you!".
For my friend it illustrated the lack of communication often present in English love affairs, maybe; but it also illustrates something deeper, "a word given" and not taken back.

My mother was dying, a long tedious process over a couple of years, brought about by hospital infections in a broken leg and dementia, aggravated by poor nursing. Practically everyday my father would drive across town to see her, they were both in their eighties. When he lost confidence in his driving, he would take a bus, a journey of about an hour each way. In the latter stages of her illness she didn't know him, and finally didn't respond to him. They weren't a demonstrative couple, my father less so than than my mother, I suggested he ought to visit a little less, perhaps every other day, his response was simply, "I promised ....".

The promise, the giving of the word, that is binding and not taken back, is the basis of the marriage covenant, the relationship, the covenant marriage between a Sovereign and her people, a bishop and his Church, a religious and his/her superior, a Christian and Christ. Obviously it is rooted for Christians in the Logos, "the Word given", God giving His Son eternally. It is something beyond "romantic love", it raises "duty" and the obligations implied by "duty" to sacred obligation, it raises us above the "hired man" who flees, to martyrs and saints, and faithful servants willing to sacrifice themselves for Christ.

Romantic love is delightful but when one's seven year old handicapped daughter smears the house with excrement, or your sixteen year old son tells you you are the "worst parent in the world" or your wife greets you with a spew of swear words, or your husband is apparently brain-dead, or your country needs you to go to war, or the music is ghastly at Mass, or for that matter your countrymen and co-religionists turn against you would crucify you, it is simply not enough. Neither is it enough when depression robs you of feelings or having fallen into love you fall out of it.
Then duty, then the promise, then the "word given" endures.

15 comments:

Fr Levi said...

Couldn't agree more with you Father. In the humble opinion of this old soldier if more people understood what duty was they would lead happier lives & the world would be a much better place ...

Cosmos said...

Fr. Blake,

Thank you for that. Very profound.

Francis said...

Beautifully put, Father - one of the best things you've written. It expresses why the Church is not, and never can be, a democracy, for it is divinely founded upon "an entirely different mindset" based on promise - covenant - the word (or Word) given. It's also why I am a monarchist (whether "raging" or otherwise): not a royalist in the sense of having an emotional attachment to the present royal family, but seeing in the faithful execution of the duties of monarchy the best possible model for the relationships which bind together civil society. (And we could hardly hope for a better example of the faithful execution of the duties of monarchy than we have in the present Queen.)

johnf said...

Well said, Father.

George said...

Very well said, father.

Monarchy is based on responsibilities; Democracy is based on rights.

Profound social and economic ramifications from each.

What do I owe to others; rather than what am I owed from others.

Capitalism and Socialism both spring forth from democracy.

Peter said...

In the city of London it used to be the case that "My word is my bond" was sufficient.
Now all banks tape record all that is said in the dealing rooms. They care not for their hired hands whom they will dispense with if they choose. The lack of trust is mutual.
How right you are Father.

gemoftheocean said...

Great post, but I hope Audrey starched Cyril's union suit, it's the least he deserved. Old goat probably gave his wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas too.

As for the Queen -- long may SHE reign. Her number one son, I'm not so hot on. Started off okay, then at some point he hugged one too many bonsai trees, and can't shut his pie hole about alleged global warming.

William seems made of the right stuff though, and seems to have picked a winner of a wife. As far as I can tell he hasn't opened his mouth at the wrong time, and it's obvious he thinks his grandmother is the bee's knees - he seems likely to take a page out of her book, rather than dear old dad's.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful - I agree with the comments above: one of the best things you've written; Honour and a sense of duty are everything.
[Valerie, NZ]

Tonia Marshall said...

My grandmother died aged 93 after 75 years of marriage and 5 years of not recognising my grandfather. I remember going to the funeral directors, going into a little room and seeing her in the coffin. She was so shockingly small and frail I didn't recognise her. When I came out my grandfather said to me "doesn't she look beautiful!" When they put the coffin in the ground you could see him looking into the hole longingly. Eight weeks later his wish was granted. Duty combined with love becomes an 'easy burden'.

Aaron Saunderson-Cross said...

The eternally begotten Son eternally given in his Resurrection as a pledge of our salvation in God's Mercy.

I am very moved by your words Fr. I think what you have written elucidates more about the nature of Christ and man's relationship with God.

I like the idea that Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God is "eternally given" to us as God's Promise to us: that no matter what happens, no matter what we do or how badly we mess up, He shall remain as our loving Father, shall never desert us, shall always forgive us for the sake of His Son who has known us, "became us" and forever united our own poor, frail humanity with the promise and obligation of God's Fatherhood.

In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, humanity is able to enter into relationship and thus "claim" God the Father's promise/ obligation towards His Son. We implore God, insist upon His Mercy, through and in His Son.

How wonderful the Incarnation is. How wonderful it stands as God's pledge of mercy and love towards humanity in the form of more than just a promise, a "word given" but rather a filial bond, His "Word given".

O to think that God sees us not as party to His covenant but as children, adopted and made "sons of God". Too wonderful for words.

Deo Gratias. God Bless you, Fr.

Matthew said...

Writing as a former Anglican (but one who still holds the best of Anglicanism in high regard) perhaps I could draw attention to the sacramental character of the Monarchy, sealed in the anointing of the Sovereign.

Supertradmum said...

My parents, alive and well and independent Midwesterners, have been married 64 years. My dad, a veteran of WWII, having fought in the Battle of the Bulge, suffers from severe leg pain. I asked him if he wanted to go to heaven recently and he said, "I shall wait until Mom goes. I am here for her."

Very cool, and I, who have never experienced this type of devotion, have missed out on the reality of divine love in a relationship.

Alan Matthews said...

Father, for all sorts or reasons, these words of yours moved me profoundly. You are swimming against the tide of popular sentiment but, like the salmon, you are heading in the right direction.

georgem said...

I have little to add to the comments by those who have found this post so moving and profound except to say that you are a credit to your priestly calling. You get it.

Sandy Grounder said...

Father Blake

A great post and as others have said very moving-thanks

"It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." Dietrich Bonhoeffer