On her twenty-first birthday in 1947, HRH The Princess Elizabeth spoke the following words in Cape Town:
I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong, but I shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
We give thanks to Almighty God that for her seventy-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has been a source of stability, living out her vocation as monarch, dedicated to the well-being 0f the people of this nation, the Commonwealth, and the wider world. Her Christian faith defined her, and she proclaimed her belief in the Servant King with clarity and profundity. As a teenager I was privileged to sing for her on a number of occasions, and as a priest to worship with her at the beginning of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2012. As a Christian community we mourn her death, and commend her soul to God, in the hope that she will hear the words, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant!’
The Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah are a poetic response to the sack of Jerusalem, and in the midst of their lament there is the declaration of faith which is this morning’s Old Testament reading. In our grief it is good to be reminded that:
‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end’ (Lam 3:22)
We commend the soul of our sister to the mercy of God, safe in the knowledge that He is loving and merciful. God’s love and mercy are at the heart of the proclamation of the Kingdom, and remain central to the message of the Church.
St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians has a conciliatory tone, it offers the Church in Corinth both hope and consolation. In the face of death, Christians can have hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that our earthly life is not all that there is, and that once it is ended we have the promise eternal life with God in Heaven. Because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases we can have faith that:
‘if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ (2Cor 5:1)
This is our hope, as Christians. In the face of grief, pain, loss, and uncertainty, we can hold onto promises which will not fail us.
As a committed Christian, Queen Elizabeth was nourished by the Eucharist. In John’s Gospel Jesus says,
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (Jn 6:35)
Today we come together to celebrate the Eucharist in the knowledge that fed by the Bread of Life, we are given a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet. A pledge of Eternal Life, given to transform us, so that we may share in the Life that is to come.
Jesus makes it clear that His teaching on the Eucharist is oriented towards our understanding of the hereafter. It is a present reality which points to a heavenly future:
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6: 39-40)
We believe that for the faithful life, life is changed by death, not ended. As our late Queen was nourished by the Bread of Life on earth, she died in the hope of Heaven, where she, and the faithful departed, may hope to enjoy the Heavenly Banquet.
Secure in this hope we pray for her, for King Charles and all the Royal Family, and for all who mourn her death, on these islands, and throughout the whole world,
Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord. And let light perpetual shine upon her. may she rest in peace. Amen.