Almost thirty years ago, I went to the Yorkshire Dales with a group of friends to undertake an ascent of the Three Peaks. Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough make for a stiff day's walking. But we were very young and the challenge of quantity was more significant to us than the quality of more leisured ascent.
The Roman satirist Juvenal lamented the fact that his fellow citizens had given up being politically engaged and were happy to sell their votes to politicians in exchange for free food and entertainment; ‘bread and circuses’. Let’s hope that 2000 years later we’ve not become even cheaper, settling for just the circuses.
“Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.” William Penn wrote these words in 1669. We have no means of knowing what his voice might have sounded like when he read them aloud, as he undoubtedly would have done, but when I hear them in my mind's ear, they are spoken with firmness and a touch of anger. They are words we do well to heed in our own time.
At present the symbolism of the Royal Maundy service in York ritualises economic inequality, the subservience of the Church to the Crown, and the sanctification of an unjust order, says Simon Barrow. Maybe a ritual re-ordering of it could help remind Christians, and the Established church, that we are called to oppose injustice and who who "act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" (Acts 17.7)?