Above: the King and Queen returning from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach.
The coronation ceremony of King Charles III, who succeeds his mother Queen Elizabeth, took place on Saturday, May 6. Millions of people around the world followed this event, whatever their nationality and religion. Many will comment on Prince Harry’s presence, the various people who attended and so on. It is in fact one of those events where the whole world can be said to attend.
Obviously as Catholics we are well aware that the Anglican community is the result of a schism perpetrated a few centuries ago with the Catholic Church. This does not mean that we cannot make some observations which could also be useful for reflecting on what is happening here. On the other hand, Ecumenism has taught us to greatly appreciate other religions, often to the detriment of our own.
According to Buckingham Palace sources, the King himself oversaw the choices for the musical programme. Indeed we know how Charles III loves music very much and has always stood out for being a patron of the arts. In the pieces performed for the ceremony there are many compositions written for the occasion. A program of great standard, excellently performed under the direction of Westminster Abbey choirmaster Andrew Nethsinga. The ceremony was truly of great solemnity and visual beauty, something Catholics are sadly no longer used to. Yet even those who are not Anglican could not help but admire the beauty of the whole, a beauty that truly attracts hearts to supernatural things. There were of course some concessions to modern times, but overall it was truly admirable.
What is comparable to us? The coronation of a Pope (excuse me, the “Mass of the beginning of the Pontificate”)? We really don’t look good. And yet, if you watch John XXIII’s coronation Mass, which is available on YouTube, you realize how once upon a time we too knew what solemnity means, what great music means.
Today, however, the only thing that matters is the sustainable environment, nobody cares if the music is unsustainable. With us in the Middle Ages the Pope wanted to know who would sing the psalm, it is said that Saint Gregory the Great took great care of his Schola Cantorum, from which many other Popes emerged. How many Bishops are really interested in the quality of sacred music in their own diocese today? Today what matters is to keep up with “modern times,” but no one understands what that really means. Today young people are pursued, we listen to young people, we learn from young people… but who do they learn from?
Today we would need an aesthetic conversion, to truly return to the beauty that speaks to us of God. Instead, the only conversion that matters is the ecological one. Without beauty and with the new ecological deities we may have a sustainable world, but an unbearable life. They have devastated the Lord’s vineyard, the grapes are poisoned, the bunches are bitter. How long, O Lord? How long?
Aurelio Porfiri is a composer, conductor, writer and educator. His music is published in Italy, France, USA, China and Germany. He has published more than 60 books. With Mons. Athanasius Schneider has published The Catholic Mass, now translated in several languages. He writes from Italy.