Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At 6.30pm we were nearing our holiday destination in Devon when we heard on the car radio the announcement of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. At that moment we shared the shock, sorrow and disbelief of so many millions of people, not only in this country but throughout the world. As so many people have said, one felt that she would always be there. Churches throughout the land had to respond, and I am very grateful to Jenny for opening the church for people to pray and light a candle, for arranging a book of condolence, and for preparing a revised service sheet for the Solemn Requiem Mass for Her Late Majesty. I am very grateful too to Fr Alan Bayes, our visiting priest, for agreeing to celebrate the Solemn Requiem. For my part, I also said a Requiem Mass in Devon.
Fr Bayes’ sermon expressed many of the thoughts and emotions felt throughout the world at the late Queen’s passing, and he has kindly agreed to let us publish it here.
May Her Late Majesty rest in peace.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Fr. Alan Bayes’ Sermon – Sunday 11th September.
All of us, I’m sure have been deeply moved over the last few days by the news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at her beloved home in Balmoral. The outpouring of grief, the tributes from so many people from all walks of life in this nation and indeed across the world, the bouquets of flowers and other offerings that have appeared at the gates of the Royal Palaces and in other public places, the personal stories that have been shared express so powerfully the way that the late Queen has touched so many of our lives in over 70 years of public service and duty to our nation and the Commonwealth. Today we bring before God in this Requiem Mass our own offering of thanks and praise for the life of the Queen and pray for the repose of her soul.
These offerings of love and gratitude for a life well lived have already brought great comfort to our new King Charles III and other members of the Royal Family in their grief as the King reminded us so poignantly in his first address to the nation following the announcement of the death of his mother on Thursday. We have begun a time of national and international mourning for a remarkable person whose life of duty and service have been an example to us all. She has indeed been for so many of us over so many years the servant queen and it is interesting to note that right up to the end of her life she always signed herself as Your Servant, Elizabeth R.
When the young Princess Elizabeth first received the news over 70 years ago that her Father, the late King George VI has died she can have had little idea of what lay ahead in terms of the tremendous burden of being head of state and Defender of the Faith and the responsibilities and duties that this role carries. She was grief stricken at the death of her father as her own family are today at her own passing, yet in spite of her own feelings knew already that she was being called from being a young mother of 2 small children to a very different life of public service and duty to this nation and to the emerging Commonwealth.
At her coronation, Elizabeth was anointed with a special scented oil in a private ceremony. This was a moment for the young Queen to reflect on the duties that lay ahead and the significance of being touched by that oil. Through her anointing the Queen was set apart, consecrated for her sacred duty under God. The anointing with the oil signifies that it was the grace of God poured out through the power of the Holy Spirit that gave her the strength and commitment to carry out these duties. She also made a sacred oath to ‘cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all my judgements… and to the utmost of her power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel’.
This promise, rooted in her Christian Faith has been the bedrock of so much of the reign of Queen Elizabeth as for over 70 years she has worked tirelessly to serve her country under God.
Underlying all that the Queen has achieved in her remarkable life is her deep personal belief and trust in God as her maker, redeemer and sustainer. She has often spoken of how prayer, worship and the Scriptures and have inspired and guided her throughout her life. God has indeed been her strength and stay, her fixed point, the stability she has needed in a rapidly changing world. Throughout her life the late Queen has faced many deep personal challenges in her family and in the way that the Monarchy has needed to adapt in the modern world. She has given advice and counsel to 15 Prime Ministers and met with countless heads of state and leaders. She has provided that stability and continuity that this country has needed in times of adversity and in times of rejoicing.
So many people who had the privilege to meet the Queen have spoken of her warmth of personality, her genuine interest in and concern for you as an individual, her wisdom, her sense of humour and her remarkable ability to make everyone feel very special and appreciated for who they are.
So I want us today to reflect together on these important themes of duty, faith and public service that were the hallmarks of the late Queen’s life in the light of Scripture and how they can help us be better disciples of Christ in our own lives.
In our first reading this morning from the book of Lamentations we hear that ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies never come to an end’. God’s steadfast love sustained the Queen throughout her life and I hope and pray will sustain us all now in our grief and uncertainty about the future as we enter a new age. We pray for our King that he too may be sustained in this everlasting love and mercy as he takes up the great mantle of state left to him by his mother. We are also reminded and I hope draw comfort from the words in the same passage that ‘Although God causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Grief is something that many of us have already experienced and will experience at some stage in our lives and the death of the late Queen Elizabeth will strike deep echoes of remembrance of our own loved ones at this time. I pray that these wonderful words from the book of Lamentations will speak afresh to each one of us today bringing the hope and comfort that the compassion of God surrounds us and we are held by his loving arms.
In our New Testament and Gospel readings we have the further hope expressed that our life on earth is really a preparation for the glory that is to come and that through the resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ there is the promise that death is not the end but simply the beginning of a new and much richer life lived in the presence of God Himself.
In this wonderful Gospel reading from John we have the following words of promise from Jesus:
‘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. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
God promises eternal life to the Queen, to our loved ones who rest in the Lord and indeed to all of us that we will one day be raised up to be with our heavenly Father in heaven.
So then as we come together shortly to share in the bread and wine, transformed as the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus we give thanks that Jesus is indeed the bread of life and that whoever comes to him will never be hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty. He sustains us on our earthly pilgrimage as he sustained Her Majesty throughout her long life of love and service and duty. We are united with the whole body of the Church here on earth and in heaven through our Communion and rejoice that the saints, and angels and join with us today and intercede for the repose of the soul of our Queen and all our loved ones and pray that they would truly rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.