I feel that some of the loveliest words in the Wedding Service are at the end of the Nuptial Blessing, where the Priest prays that the couple may see their children's children even unto the third and fourth generation, and come to the longed-for old age. One of the deceptions of the Zeitgeist is the pretence that Old Age is an abnormality to be feared (cover up those wrinkles; you know you're worth it). The Christian Tradition, rooted in some glorious texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, is that the Old Age is - just as much as the Youff and the Prime (such as yours, Miss Jean Brodie) - part of the God-given wholeness of human life. And that the sexual relationship is no more only the romance of the young (which they are expected ever to struggle to recapture and to rekindle) than it is the settled and comfortable oneness of the old. Ad optatam perveniant senectutem.
That was the prayer of all right-thinking people in Oxford (and, indeed, of many from much further afield) who flocked, last Saturday, to the Wedding of the Year: of Alexandra Vinall and Daniel Lloyd. We homed in on the seminary chapel at S Stephen's House ... only that morning I'd had coffee with a seminarian from the North American College at Rome (Hello, Michael, and Hello, Joshua), who had been distinctly intrigued by the idea of Seminary Weddings ... for a celebration of a very family event; the family being that within the Staggers-Pusey-Ebbsfleet triangle; with Bishop Andrew solemnising the Wedding and then presiding from the Throne as Dr Baker sang the Mass and bestowed the Nuptial Blessing, with Dr Ward in his stall in choir wearing his splendid new furs. Alex (Wadham College) looked perfectly exquisite; Daniel (Merton College) looked as pleased as punch: as well he might. A couple that knew their minds: Alex did include the O-word in her vows - remarkable how, three generations ago, girls tried to show their independence by refusing to 'obey', while now one can show one's independence of shallow faddery by saying this lovely four-letter word.
And they knew their minds theologically; the booklet rather resembled the elegant productions of the Office for Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, with explanatory prefaces as part of the Church's mission of teaching. So the unaware will have learned that "the culmination of this service is, in many ways, not the marriage itself." In the first millennium, I believe, 'marriage' consisted in the consent of the couple expressed in their coming together in the assembly of Christ's Body to receive together the Sacrament of Christ's Body; the Nuptial Mass is the real and ancient heart of Christian wedding. Of course, both bride and groom are Ministers of the Sacrament; but it always seems to me that the Essential Minister of Marriage is the Bride, who is the subject of the solemn and ancient Nuptial Blessing ... hubby only getting a look-in at the end. Marriage is the Woman's Sacrament. I found it very moving that the Groom spent his time awaiting Her arrival in prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
And the music and the art demonstrated the same firm control: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Communio were in Latin from the Old Roman Rite and the Mass setting was by Tomas Luis de Victoria. Indeed, that exciting cultural moment in the mid-sixteenth century when Spain led a grand European Union was at the heart of the Spirit of the Celebration. Christopher de Morales provided the setting of the Communio, and William Byrd's Sing joyfully (a gorgeous 'Blow the trumpet' passage) occupied the signing of the register. All three of these were alive between 1548 and 1553, as was the painter of the picture on the cover of the book, The wedding at Cana: Marten de Vos, who did so much, artistically, to put right the damage the 'Reformation' had done in the Spanish Netherlands. His bustle, human interest, and colour seem to bridge the divide between Netherlandish art and the Venice of Veronese.
All in all, a Wedding that expressed so much of what we mean by the 'Anglican Patrimony'. There seemed to be some talk that, the next morning, the Happy Couple might be at Mass in some church in Paris called S Nicolas de Chardonnet. I hope I've got the name right. Diocese of Gibraltar and Europe that would be, I s'pose.