This past weekend saw a television and historical event that will be remembered for a generation or so — The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And in our modern echo chamber, you either loved it, had disdain for it, or did not even notice that it happened. I would like to offer that most of us missed the point of why it mattered. And it mattered because the fate of the Galaxy hangs in the balance, though not for reasons you may be thinking.
For 40 years we have been following the exploits of a Princess – how she saved her rescuers, how she rallied a Rebellion against evil, and the life we followed in the Legends novels. We were thrilled when her King and father appeared in the prequel trilogy (and later!). These admirable examples are the scope through which royalty, monarchy and headship ought to be viewed.
It is undeniable that all royals are men and women like you and me. They are not essentially or existentially different. They have foibles and gaffes, we know. But these are noted in the grocery store rags because we expect better.
Royalty embody the hopes and aspirations for an entire people. We hope for healing, forgiveness, beauty, service and leadership. Monarchy shows the best of what a culture has to offer. All come together not to serve the individual, but to invest as a figurehead the embodiment of the nation in a person. And in return, monarchy responds in service and patronage.
Let’s look at a royal we know. Padme Amidala was a young woman who wore the mantle of the glory of Naboo. From an early age, she participated in the Legislative Youth Program, hoping for a life of service through leadership. When the invasion of Naboo came, she fought selflessly for their liberation. She put herself in harm’s way, actively fought for her people without regard to station, but utter freedom. This is but one example of the high calling of service being discussed here. What we have seen in Padme, and what we already know of Leia and Bail Organa, calls to mind our hopes for how royalty can be beneficial to a society as a whole in each person’s life.
In ancient Israel, there was no King but the Lord who reigned from on high. He was not often visible, and he spoke only sporadically through his judges, chosen vessels of his message. But as the Children of Israel became more complacent and enamored with the material world, they begged to look just like the nations that surrounded them. “all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, …now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord,” (1 Samuel 9.4-6). Their desire was lowly minded.
Out of his fatherly compassion – both in order to show his coming fulfillment in Christ, and to use every moment as a lesson – God acquiesced. “They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice,” (1 Samuel 9.7-9). So he gave them what they wanted, not out of a misunderstanding, but so that the children would learn and grow. Many kings and queens would rule the nation of Israel for another 1000 years, and only seven were noted as even being righteous. It was precisely when they gave up their obedience to God and saw themselves as the mighty protector that their falls were inevitable.
In the land of my ancestry, England, there is a moment at the coronation that bespeaks of the relation between the temporal sovereign and the eternal Almighty. Before being invested with he symbols of power, the monarch is anointed with holy oil, just as spiritual leaders always have – and even each of us who have been confirmed or chrismated in our own faiths. At the anointing, the celebrating Archbishop says this prayer:
O Lord and heavenly Father…who by anointing with Oil didst of old make and consecrate kings, priests, and prophets, to teach and govern thy people Israel: Bless and sanctify thy chosen servant …Strengthen her, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter; Confirm and establish her with thy free and princely Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and government, the Spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the Spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and fill her, O Lord, with the Spirit of thy holy fear…
Begging the Lord to give the strength from above, because strength cannot come from within.
Let us draw a counterpoint here. Palpatine. Of course, Palpatine. A man of immense intelligence, cunning and ability. He claimed the Sith through his own desires. He stole the leadership of the Galaxy through nefarious evil machinations. He invested himself as Emperor while assuming dictatorial power by decree. This example is all too often what is assumed of the monarchs that have presided over our nations. However, while there have been negative examples, the desire for sacrificial servants bearing the weight of a people still never dies.
Poe Dameron spoke to Lor San Tekka about the general at the head of the Resistance. The elder added, gently but powerfully, “To me, she’s royalty.” In Princess Leia, we see a life of strength and power, never abuse. Raised by her adoptive parents to always be concerned with the least of the community, her life was always one of service, hopeful leadership and loving sacrifice. She is not defined by her military successes and failures, nor legislation which bears her name. She is defined by her lifelong commitment to serve her people – and this was the only thing that was given to her without her permission. A most loving gift from noble and righteous parents.
Since Royalty and Monarchy points toward the hopes and dreams of a people, it is only logical to conclude that there is a prototype to which we are looking. There is a King of the highest order that is benevolent and serves with sacrificial love, heals without harming. And of course I am speaking about Jesus. The Son of God, a Prince of the Kingdom to Come. He did not come at the head of a military coterie. He did not scream from the heavens leading an angelic strafing run. He came as a small child, to a life of service, sacrifice and restoration. We sing at his birth: “The hopes and fears of all the years are laid with Thee tonight.” At his resurrection, we sing: “ Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!” The royal and beloved son of the King of Heaven is the monarch of the Galaxy, the benevolent lover of mankind. Through his royal patronage, all the ills of our lives are banished. He fights the battles that need fighting, offers the comfort and healing that is required. And we recognize in his rule what we have been longing for since we skulked out of the Garden of Eden.
The royals of our day are conscious (or ought to be) that they are pointing with their lives toward the Eternal invading and healing the temporal. They are not our overlords and oppressors, but by their vocation are a conduit and example of the way that faithful sons and daughters of the Lord are called to be of service to one another.
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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the several podcasts in the Coffee With Kenobi family!
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