Wednesday, May 23, 2018

On the Royal Wedding and Longing for Tradition

You know I love royalty. I was born with both British and monarchist blood flowing through my veins. My family never turned their noses up to the latest tabloid scandals afflicting Charles, Diana, and Fergie while I was growing up. Opinions were expressed about the royals as if they were neighbours down the street whose lives actually affected ours, who needed our personal advice. I have an almost endless fascination with the royal family, but also carry a large dose of cynicism. I don't idolize them and I know that they are fully human and have a lot of not-so-great qualities. I understand that just as the rest of the world have given into modernity and its casting away of moral and cultural restraints, so too has the royal family of Britain.

Needless to say of course I watched the royal wedding of this past weekend, I DVRed all six hours of live coverage, I suffered through so much mindless commentary, and I also loved seeing the beauty of a wedding take place in such a historic setting. Like everyone else in the world, I found the romance was impossible to turn away from. There's also the fairy tale motif of the American girl becoming a princess which is so attractive, but I think there's a bit more to why so many were enthralled with this matrimonial pageant.

I think people are attracted to the tradition of the pageantry, the wedding service itself, and the host of other royal trappings that surround a royal wedding. We may joke about it, approach the whole thing as if the royal family are stuffy and out of touch, but we can't deny that they've hung on to traditions like no one else. We're a tradition starved world that is drawn to tradition, if only to gawk.

For the past couple of hundred or so years there has been an almost ceaseless campaign to eradicate tradition, solely because it is tradition. The value of something being passed on from another generation is not simply rejected it's completely denied and abhorred. We've severed tradition and any passing on of wisdom or custom from one generation to the next with remarkable success.

But we can't completely disregard that human longing for what has passed, to reflect on history and it's meaning, to carry on what our grandparents once did. We long for the connection to people who have lived before us. It is very much a spiritual connection with spiritual effects. As our world has gotten more and more materialistic and denied more and more of the eternal and unseen realities, we act as if there is no meaning from the lives of those who lived before us. Ceremonies, traditional language and liturgy have all but been exterminated from our regular lives. What institutions can we say carry on much tradition from the past?

The longing for tradition is similar to the longing for true beauty, for beauty that isn't defined by trends, likes, and tweets. Objective beauty stands the test of time and penetrates the souls of people separated by centuries. Queen Victoria's children were baptized in St. George's chapel at Windsor in the same place Harry and Meghan stood this weekend and I can bet that their guests were equally awed by the surrounding beauty as Oprah.

We long for tradition and beauty just like we long for the transcendent. It is facet of how we were created. I think our world is desperate for tradition when so many things feel topsy-turvy and out of control. What I'm not sure the world is aware of is that tradition has meaning, and it's meaning points to so much more than dresses, titles, and a picture perfect wedding. Tradition points to the fullness of humanity; of being connected to those who've lived before you, the wisdom, knowledge, faith and custom that those who have lived before you, and most importantly the reality that we are not simply made for this world.

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