« The Monk is back! | Main | Defence of the Realm - Part 2 »

July 12, 2004

Requiem for the slain

The Bloody Meadow, so named for the fact that here, on the 4th May 1471, the flower of the Lancastrian nobility and the routed men at arms were quite literally slaughtered as they struggled to escape the battlefield and became mired in the waterlogged field they had been forced back to. The triumphant soldiers under the banner of King Edward IV showed little mercy and gave no quarter, even pursuing those that did escape into the Nave of the Abbey. The slaughter there was stopped by Abbot Strensham who drove the soldiery out brandishing the Monstrance and consecrated "Host" - the Priest's Wafer at the Mass - and threatening them with eternal damnation. He even denied the King entry when it was demanded that he allow the King's men entry to arrest the Duke of Somerset and surviving nobility, until assured that no armed men would enter.

Yesterday morning, on this meadow, but not quite as muddy, amid the tents of the re-enactment society and surrounded by a camp stirring after a night of rain under canvas, and with most in medieval garb, our Vicar celebrated a Mass for the Slain. It was a simple affair, said, with the congregation of twenty or so, stood around the altar and sprinkled at one point with rain, but it had a very tranquil feel to it, and it was an act of worship, not of re-enactment. As it progressed several more people joined in, or simply stood and watched, many afterwards coming across to say that they hoped it would be a feature for the future.

We saw no ghosts, but then we did not expect to. That was not the purpose of the Mass. It was, and is, a Christian way of reminding ourselves that the message of the Saviour is one of peace, and even in war, there are victims on both sides of the battlefield. Thus, we also commemorated those who have fallen in all battles since, and particularly those in our own time, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and even now in undeclared wars which arise from pride, ambition, and the pursuit of power.

It was my privilege as Deacon to proclaim the Gospel and to assist in the distribution of the Communion. As we left, a lady approached and thanked us for coming and for conducting the service. She had not been a memebr of the congregation, but had watched from a little distance. Who knows, perhaps God has begun to work in her life just as he has in ours. It may be that next year there will be even more of the people who saw and heard, but did not join in, who will be there to take part.

Perhaps, too, it began to work even while we were there - we returned to the Abbey to find around twenty of the re-enactors at the Abbey for the Parish Eucharist and a similar number attended the Solemn Eucharist at 1100. We all felt that it was right to do this, and even more so, to do it on the Bloody Meadow. This field of slaughter has now become a vale of peace.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 12, 2004 11:14 AM