It will be a spectacle on Saturday, to be sure. For when Charles III–perhaps the longest man ever to wait for his real job to finally kick in–is crowned in Westminster Abbey the symbolism will more than outweigh the sentiments. What’s more, those in Christian circles will instantly recognize many of the words that will be said.
When a fourteen-year-old chorister welcomes the king, for instance, Charles will respond by saying, “In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.”
When the moderator of the Church of Scotland presents a red-leather bound bible to the sovereign—presumably a King James Version, just to keep it in the family—Charles will symbolically acknowledge a source of truth greater than any other.
When the Prime Minister—a Hindu—reads from Colossians 1.9-17, He will remind those assembled that in Christ “all things were created, things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities,” for “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
Similarly, Charles will be anointed with oil harvested from two groves from the Mount of Olives, pressed just outside Bethlehem, and consecrated by both the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Anglican Archbishop from there.
And then when the crimson Robe of State is put upon Charles, who will be wearing a simple white shirt befitting one who comes before God as a servant, the Archbishop of Canterbury will say: “Receive this Robe. May the Lord clothe you with the robe of righteousness and with the garments of salvation.”
All of which is appropriate indeed for stepping into a role in which he will be not simply the British Head of State, but the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and, according to the original words at least, the “Defender of the Faith,” a la Jude 3, not simply a defender of more generic faith as Charles himself has suggested the title should read.
What appears to be missing, however, are the words which long ago a different Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced when he laid the crown upon the head of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II: “I give thee, o sovereign lady, this crown to wear until He who reserves the right to wear it shall return.”
And those would seem to be the most important words of all. For even with an English son-in-law and grandchildren, and a daughter who just this week received her dual citizenship in England, all the pomp and circumstance in the world should not cloud us to one undeniable truth: Supreme sovereignty lies with God alone. So, if we have been granted a position in which to exercise authority over others ourselves—such as a monarch, a president, a teacher, a boss, a bishop, or even a parent—we do so only on His behalf in this world.
Or to put it another way, all crowns on this earth are only borrowed. Whether those words are said or not on Saturday, here’s hoping that all of us, including the new King and Queen of England, may remember that.