Fr. Raymond J. de Souza writes on the “strikingly Christian funeral of Queen Elizabeth II:”
It was the grandest state funeral in history for history’s longest-serving monarch.
First and last, though, it was a Christian funeral.
The Church of England rendered a signal service to all Christians in providing a model for how funerals ought to be conducted, in a time when both sacred and civic funeral liturgies have become rather emaciated.
The Queen was rightly and well eulogized in various ceremonies in the past week. The day of her funeral was a day for prayer.
From the moment the funeral cortege entered Westminster Abbey to the singing of I Am the Resurrection and the Life, the mystery of death and eternal life took precedence over all others.
“We will all face the merciful judgment of God,” preached the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
The archbishop preached a magnificent funeral homily, a model for all Christian funeral preaching. He preached truths about the queen’s “servant leadership” but presented her as a Christian disciple first and monarch second. The day included the height of British pomp and pageantry, but Archbishop Welby noted that “death is the door to glory.”
The sheer length of the queen’s life and reign were underscored as her earthly remains passed underneath the statues of the 20th-century martyrs installed over the abbey’s great west door for the millennium. The queen was born three years before Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, and when she came to the abbey for her wedding in 1947, St. Maximilian Kolbe had not even been dead a decade.
Completely absent were speeches by secular officers of state. And to that welcome silence was added the profound, even palpable silence of the enormous crowds around the abbey and along the mall to Buckingham Palace. It was a manifestation of reverence, a public virtue much required for a healthy common life.
The ritual for a deceased monarch is richer than for any other, and the funeral masterfully permitted the ritual to speak. The congregation in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor stood in silence as the instruments of the queen’s earthly power — the orb, scepter and imperial state crown — were removed from the coffin and placed on the high altar. Then they sang Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation. What more need be said about the basis for all authority?
Catholic liturgy might learn something. Our current graveside rituals are banal. Contrast those with the sight of the coffin being lowered into the royal vault, while the dean of Windsor recited Psalm 103:
“For he knoweth our frame;
he remembereth that we are dust.
As for man, his days are as grass:
as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;
and the place thereof shall know it no more.”
Then he recited the stirring and solemn prayer, “Go forth Christian soul, from this world …”
The BBC’s coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral is exceptional, particularly of her burial in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor:
Rest In Peace.