The Cross and the Crown

King Charles III will be anointed with oil from the Mount of Olives.

By Charles Gardner.

LONDON, May 2, 2023 – The coronation taking place in Westminster Abbey this Saturday is not just about the crowning of a new king.

If the service follows precedent, it will also be much focused on the King of Kings, the ruler of the universe.

This is symbolically reflected in the orb and sceptre, part of the ceremonial regalia made of gold and decorated with precious stones, with the globe-like orb surmounted by the cross, representing Christ’s dominion over the world.

King Charles III will be handed a copy of the Bible as “the most valuable thing that this world affords” and will be anointed with oil from the Mount of Olives, where his grandmother Princess Alice is buried, and where Jesus sweated drops of blood as he agonised over his impending death for our sins.

Princess Alice of Greece, the late Duke of Edinburgh’s mother who became a nun in later life, was recognised as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ for saving the lives of a Jewish family during World War II by hiding them from the Nazis.

Charles, meanwhile, has shown much compassion to Holocaust survivors, regularly inviting them to special teas. In fact, he has reached out a helping hand to many struggling people over the years with practical ventures like the Prince’s Trust, funding business ideas for those who might not otherwise find such support.

One beneficiary told the BBC how Charles had literally saved her life. When she was suicidal and in prison, she prayed to God and with the help she received from the Trust, was able to set up a thriving business.

Charles clearly has big shoes to fill, but it is hoped that the 74-year-old will gain a greater personal knowledge of the Lord who was the Rock of his mother’s record-breaking reign.

As someone has pointed out, it is too much to expect him to live up to his spiritual title of Defender of the Faith if he has not been truly born again of God’s Holy Spirit (see John 3:3), so we must obviously pray for his salvation – that he will hear the “still, small voice” of the One who created the beautiful environment about which he is so passionate. (See 1 Kings 19:12, Psalm 46:10)

The story is told of a British king of earlier times who visited a chapel in Edinburgh with his entourage. They duly began chattering among themselves, but were sternly rebuked by the preacher quoting the words of the prophet Habakkuk: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20)

I pray that, like Jesus, Charles too will become a servant king.

The Queen’s 70-year rule (1952-2022) mirrors the duration of Israel’s Babylonian exile and has seen the UK drift relentlessly away from the moral moorings of our Christian faith in spite of Her Majesty’s example. I pray that, as with Israel under Nehemiah, we will now recognise our folly in turning away from God’s commands and go back to the Bible.

Charles’ grandfather King George VI called the nation to prayer during the last war and God came to our rescue. Oh, that Charles would do the same! Queen Victoria (1837-1901) was also a dedicated Christian who is reported to have confessed to a chaplain that she would like to have witnessed the return of Jesus in her lifetime so she could place her crown at his feet!

Among the hymns likely to be sung in the Abbey is Jerusalem, which has become something of a national anthem here. William Blake’s words reflect a somewhat strange theology centred around the belief that the Messiah once visited these ‘sceptred isles’. But if building Jerusalem in England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ means restoring the faith of our forefathers, I will be singing it heartily with the rest of them.

Beyond the pomp and circumstance, this great event is really all about Jesus. When he first came among us, the Wise Men asked: “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him?” (Matthew 2:2) And when he was nailed to the cross, even his enemies unwittingly acknowledged that he was King of the Jews.

But he is also King of the Universe, the name above all names, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)