by Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen
At the heart of the Coronation Service is anointing: the new king anointed by the representative of Christ’s church, the Archbishop of Canterbury. A solemn moment, a holy moment, hidden from sight: not a spectacle to be observed by others, but a time for our prayers, that with the anointing with precious oil would come the anointing of God’s Spirit with the Spirit’s gifts, to do God’s work in the world.
It might seem anachronistic that something so thoroughly and traditionally Christian should be at the centre of this occasion, in our ever more secular and spiritually diverse society. It certainly looks that way to some people. King Charles III may want to defend the faiths of all, but his coronation still identifies him very clearly with one faith, and one Lord.
The anointing of the monarch at the coronation is a symbol, a sign. It says that ultimately, the order that sustains our society is not a matter of genealogy – the supremacy of a royal dynasty. Nor does it arise from what ‘the people’ decide and construct for themselves. Ultimately, it comes as the gift of God, because human society itself is God’s gift, God’s creation, and its health depends on our capacity to accept this, and to recognise our particular responsibilities as part of it.
King Charles will be anointed to serve our country as its monarch, and we hold him in our prayers. We are each of us, however, anointed – some of us physically, as at the confirmation service in April; a powerful sign. As followers of Christ (a title that simply means ‘the anointed’, God’s anointed), we have all been called, and we have all received grace, to take our part in the church and in the world.
May the King’s Coronation be for each one of us an opportunity to remember that with humility and joy.