Last Sunday’s broadcast of the BBC Radio 4 program Sunday Worship came from the chapel of Castle Howard. The celebrant was the Right Reverend James Jones, retired Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, and his subject was “Responding to God’s Grace.” He mentioned the connection between Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited and Castle Howard which was the setting for both film adaptations of the novel. Given his subject, it is not too surprising that references to Brideshead (in which Waugh was also describing the working of divine grace) are scattered throughout the service:
Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead said ‘that everyone in his (or her) life has a moment when they are open to Divine Grace.’ A time when we become aware, in spite of all the troubles in the world, that there is a God and that his love is within our reach…In the closing pages of Brideshead Revisited there are two profoundly spiritual scenes. The first is where the old Lord Marchmain returns with his mistress from self-imposed exile in Italy to the ancestral home to die…The second scene comes in the epilogue to the novel. Charles, Sebastian’s friend from their student days … returns to the ancestral House during the war when Brideshead has been commandeered by the army … And goes to the Chapel. After years of resisting the faith he has his own moment of divine grace and writes, “I said a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words….”
In the service, this is where the Lord’s Prayer is recited.
Following the Gospel reading, Bishop Jones makes a final reference to Waugh’s novel:
Half-way through the novel of Brideshead Revisited Julia, Sebastian’s sister, laments, saying ‘Sometimes I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.’
The full service can he heard on BBC Radio 4 over the internet on BBC iPlayer which is available worldwide; a transcript of the service is also available on the BBC Radio 4 website, both at this link.