Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens (my favorite author) are buried here, side by side, in the Poets Corner. There is something very special about that. And George Frederic Handel is their close neighbor.Through eternity. What brilliant stories and music they must share! How moving it has to be to hear Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in this historic Gothic cathedral with its high walls of marble and glass. Queen Elizabeth I (a woman who has fascinated many, including myself) is buried here with her estranged sister, Mary. This was done to symbolize reunification in the resurrection. After all, sisters should be forever close, shouldn’t they? A number of the tombs of royalty have likenesses lying atop – recumbent effigies – hands poised in eternal prayer…
Photos are not allowed inside Westminster Abbey. This served to add to the sacred nature of the environment as cameras and mobile phones (moe-byel-s) were stowed and attention was given instead to the venerable majesty and history. Every hour, Westminster Abbey honors a moment of prayer which is delivered by the Duty Priest. Those who are present are asked to pray or “be still and quiet”. I happened to be there when Father Louis delivered the following prayer. Just afterward, he wrote the words in my journal when I asked him if I might have a copy of what he had recited. It was a tremendous gift.
This is what he prayed:
God bless this city
and move our hearts with pity
lest we grow hard.
God bless this place
with silence, solitude, and space
that we may pray.
God bless these days
of rough and narrow ways
lest we despair.
God bless the night
and calm the people’s fright
that we may love.
God bless this land
and guide us with your hand lest we be unjust.
God bless this earth
through pangs of death and birth
and make us whole.
He then added as an extra gift:
This prayer is written by the Revd. Jim Cottes and was offered at Westminster Abbey on Thursday, 16th May 2013. Pax et bonum.
Fr. Louis Sarraut
And peace and goodwill to all of you, my friends.