Sunday, February 5, 2012

Long May She Reign

Sixty years ago to-morrow, upon the lamented death of her father the King, his elder daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, acceded to the Crown.  Famously, being in Kenya at the time, staying at Treetops Hotel, she went up a princess and came down a queen.  The years have passed, and, this night past, will dawn Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.  Long may she reign over us!

In England, it is traditional to sing the following versicle and collect for the Queen after High Mass:

V/. Domine, salvam fac Reginam nostram Elisabeth.
R/. Et exaudi nos in die, qua invocaverimus te.
Quæsumus, omnipotens Deus, ut ancilla tua Elisabeth Regina nostra, qui tua miseratione suscepit regni gubernacula, virtutum etiam omnium percipiat incrementa; quibus decenter ornata, et vitiorum monstra devitare, et ad te qui via, veritas et via es, cum principe consorte et prole regia gratiosa valeat pervenire. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Curiously, the Collect, despite naming God as the way, the truth and the life – attributes usually assigned to the Son, by His own blessed words in the Gospel – concludes Per Christum, addressing it thus to the Father, rather than concluding Qui vivis, if it were considered as addressing the Son.  The Sacred Congregation of Rites was consulted on this point in times past, but replied that the traditional Per Christum be retained.  The Collect, after all, is the Collect pro Rege (with gender changed and a reference to the Prince Consort and Royal Family inserted); and that, too, curiously but certainly ends Per Dominum.  Here we thus have the unusual case of a Collect addressed to the First Person when the words would seem more obviously addressed to the Second – which is the exact opposite to the more common phenomenon, whereby, as in several Advent Collects, prayers anciently addressed to the Father, ending Per Dominum, were later changed to end Qui vivis, since it was later decided that their words seemed more obviously directed ad Filium.

While I expect it won't be done, it would be entirely possible to-day for the celebrant at Mass to read the following Collect in the modern Missal (Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, II. For Civil Needs, 24. For the Head of State or Ruler):

O God, to whom every human power is subject, grant to your servant our sovereign Queen Elizabeth success in the exercise of her high office, so that, always revering you and striving to please you, she may constantly secure and preserve for the people entrusted to her care the freedom that comes from civil peace.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The new Collect, unlike the old, focusses rather on merely temporal benefits, rather than praying for Her Majesty's salvation; then again, are we not taught in Holy Writ to pray "for kings and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity" (I Tim. ii, 2)?


Ben said...

But with all respect to this admirable lady, is she truly Queen?

The Act of Settlement excluding Catholics from the throne is of course intrinsically opposed to the divine law that all must submit to the Roman Pontiff, since it implies that to become head of state one must commit objectively grave sin.

This makes it, in the eyes of God, absolutely null and utterly void.

To the extent that Elizabeth's accession to the throne depends on the Act of Settlement, surely no follower of Christ can rightly accept it as legitimate?

Joshua said...

Given that His Holiness receives her as Queen, and the Holy See has diplomatic relations with the Court of St James, it may be confidently asserted that in the real world, as opposed to the ideal one, she is indeed the reigning monarch of the UK, Australia and her other realms and territories.