THOMAS PAINE: Founding father of the United States.
“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religion, or religions established by law.”
A little date cocktail this morning, as I sit in The Celerium; off the Dean’s Yard, through the Sanctuary, in the depths of Westminster Abbey. My journey – to deliver, (and not happy about it) the deeds to my little home in this place, armed with city mapper (without I will be lost), the irony did not escape me (it was not lost.)
Following the little headlight (which is me) on my app, I stand before the Abbey. I am before the entrance to the Greatest Abbey on earth and yet I have a date with solicitors. The Sanctuary. Ever so politely, the security detail (who I am sure prays all day not to bite a tourist in anger) reveals that I am beside the law firm I seek … right there… number 1 … next to the gift shop. What is this? Church and Law? Law and Church … smacks of Medieval practice. Circa 476 AD.
During the perpetual darkness of the Medieval period, death and taxes – what has changed? The Church was in control of the landowners and if you wanted ‘everlasting life’ you paid them taxes. The landlords forced the minions, called Serfs, to live on the land, work the land, give the landlord your produce, which included blood and sweat and all sanity, in return for military protection. The only thing you may be lucky to own, was your teeth and back then, not guaranteed.
Me, Third from the left.
So, the situation has me entering the hallows of the Law world. Could not be more of a cliché: panelled, dark oak, royal red carpet with golden detail that is so deep and spongy, no sound will escape these walls for sure. Traditional, stoic and serious happens here. Feeling like a puppy going to the SPCA. Sit and wait, for fate. With apologies to all my wonderful friends in the legal world (you are awesome), I also remembered why I never finished my law studies:
‘You should do law’. I was told. Was it, now I think, a compliment or because I talk too much? Anyway, my experience of the law (wee bairn back in the day I had the visions of justice and pretty solved relationships) has always meant sorrow. The world of the struggle and I am not for that world. I struggle enough to decipher my own heart, let alone deal with the others breaking all around in those deeply carpeted chambers.
‘The Sanctuary’ is the incorrect address for my legal date. But I am not sad or unhappy anymore, and as I leave through the ancient stone steps, one, two, to a different kind of chapter, I need only to look to the right and the Majesty that is the Abbey. Our little love affair goes back a long, long way. My virgin pilgrimage took me to St. Margarets next door, and then the looming edifice of the Abbey, young and ignorant of poets till later, my first sighting of the tomb of the unknown soldier left his mark forever. A mother’s son lies there. Overwhelming story.
Watched the weddings, and the funerals in this Abbey. First foundations laid in the 13th Century, though King, Church and Law still closely connected. It still feels spiritual and I contemplate going in again, but the hoards of umbrella following selfie stickers deter me. Sanctuary when tourists are around, it is not.
Remember buying the smallest of English soldiers for my son in the gift shop. Little boxes of chain mail wearing fighters – and now he is in the British Military: okay … my eyes lift up to the heavens and I am having a little conversation …
In refuge of Tea and Lemon Drizzle cake, the realisation that my own path has been too much entwining of Church and Law. Raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, schooled at The Convent of Notre Dame with Jewish friends – doctrine rather than faith to put the fear of God into me, rather than the Love of God into me. Here, the Law and Church lies side by side – an idea, perhaps practical who knows, but I am fascinated by it this morning.
Felt like the serf for a little while. At the mercy of … the law intervening and dictating, once again, my life. Strangers making rulings. All the loving, the messiness, the dreaming and stumbling of relationships cold in the archives.
Liberating actually. Good to know history is once again jabbing the curiosity for learning is fun. Excellent to know that irony can be delicious. Serf no more no more – would rather be a smurf.
And the most important thing. FAITH.
Faith is not a set of rules, limited to time and place, class or power.
Faith is not judgemental, critical or pompous.
Faith can be in yourself, in family, in nature or religion.
Faith is calming, accepting and spiritually rewarding.
Faith is hope and hope is love.
Images: FEE and Pintrest