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Royal Maundy Celebrations

The Queen hands out Maundy Money at York Minster

Monday 2nd April 2012

Writing in the York Press, the Archbishop explains the fantastic privilege that Her Majesty the Queen, in her Diamond Jubilee year, has chosen York Minster for the distribution of the Royal Maundy. His article follows....

What a fantastic privilege it is for us here in York that Her Majesty the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee year has chosen York Minster for the distribution of the Royal Maundy!  

The first time our Queen attended the Royal Maundy was in 1935, when she did so as the young Elizabeth, Duchess of York. In her time as sovereign she has made sure that the ceremony has been celebrated in various cathedrals up and down the country.

This will only be the second time it has happened in York – and York Minster will be the first Cathedral outside London to where this has happened a second time.

However you could say that by bringing the celebration to Yorkshire this year the Queen is bringing the Royal Maundy home – it was on the 15th April 1210 that King John was the first English sovereign to distribute gifts to the poor not far away in Knaresborough. These days the Maundy gifts go to people who have served their local church or community. It is a special way of saying ‘thank you’ to some of the unsung heroes of our local life.

The word ‘Maundy’ (pronounced ‘morndi’) comes from the word ‘Commandment’. It refers to Jesus saying to his disciples, ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ John 13.34. This is one of the bible readings in this short and very simple service. 

The other tells the cautionary tale of the rich man, Dives, and Lazarus, the poor man at his gate. Kings and Queens down the ages have celebrated this occasion as a mark of generous love and the life of service.

It is a colourful occasion, but a simple one. As the procession arrives the Yeomen carry in the six silver dishes, dating from Charles II, containing the bags of Maundy Money.

By tradition they are held high above their heads – out of reach of grabbing fingers. They also carry linen towels and nosegays, which are a reminder of a tradition which once formed part of the ceremony, the acting out of Jesus taking a towel and washing his disciples’ feet. The nosegays were to protect the monarch from the odour of smelly feet!

I am delighted that the Queen is visiting York so early in this year of celebrations. It is also fitting that her visit takes place just before the retirement of our Dean, The Very Revd Keith Brynmor Jones, who has served at the Minster since 2004, for whom this will be a particular joy.

It is hard to imagine any sovereign more completely fulfilling our Lord’s commandment, than our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her love and devotion to God and to her people throughout her reign have set us a fine example of selfless and generous service.

On Maundy Thursday in this Diamond Jubilee year we salute her for her continued faithfulness to Christ, and to the way of love spelt out so powerfully in the symbolism of this day.

God save the Queen!

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