As befits an English woman living abroad, I watched the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on television, and reveled in the pomp and circumstance of each shot and every angle. I loved the sight of the beautiful mixed-race bride, her dress, the bridesmaids and page-boys, the various members of the royal family, the dresses and the hats. I enjoyed the reading from the Bible by Lady Anne Whatsername, the sister of the late Princess Diana, and even the rather long and rambling sermon preached with fervor and enthusiasm by the coloured American bishop whose name I did not catch.
But as the service proceeded it occurred to me that we were being treated to a bunch of Jewish traditions, starting with the reading containing the lyrical verses from the Song of Solomon, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm; for love is as strong as death” that echoed through the church at Windsor. Luckily, the reading did not include the part that reads “I am black but comely,” as that might have been considered tactless. The American preacher-man also spoke fervently about those very same verses in the Bible, making it clear that Jesus’s teachings about loving thy neighbor were drawn directly from the Old Testament.
The connections between that ceremony and the Jewish tradition struck me only later that day, when we attended a concert in the Church of the Ark of the Covenant (where some people believe King David brought the Ark before dancing before it all the way to Jerusalem) in Abu Ghosh.
The programme started with Schubert’s beautiful Mass in G major. Listening to the music and noticing the words it struck me that those are our prayers. ‘Credo in unum Deum’ is the Hebrew prayer ‘Ani Ma’amin,’ and ‘Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus,’ comes straight from the Hebrew prayer (kadosh, kadosh, kadosh). Actual Hebrew words are even included in the mass, in Latinised transliteration, such as ‘Deus Sabaoth,’ (elohei tzevaot) and Osanna (Hosha-na), which the Christian tradition mistakenly regards as something akin to ‘Halleluya (another Hebrew term) rather than a plea for mercy. As a man behind me in the supermarket check-out line said to me just the other day (don’t ask me why), “I asked the Christians in America if they knew what language they were singing in when they sang ‘Halleluya.’ And of course, the whole concept of the ‘lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world,’ (Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi) is taken directly from the scapegoat of the ancient Hebrews. Christians repeat these words and phrases almost every time they pray, though doubtless most of them are unaware of their source.
The concert ended with a lovely performance of Fauré’s Requiem. Some of the phrases mentioned above appear there, too, but in addition it ends with an exquisite passage, ‘In Paradiso,’ in which the holy city of Jerusalem is equated with paradise, the place where angels sing and all is peace and harmony.
I can only say Amen to that (another actual Hebrew word).