Fr Andrew's thought for the week - 18 April 2021
As I write, we await on Saturday, the funeral at Windsor, of HRH the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Partly through his own choice, and partly because of on-going Covid restrictions, the funeral will be a much simpler affair that it might otherwise have been. We will know by the time you read this, what the actual order will have been. I pray and trust that it will be truly Christian funeral.
More and more often these days, funerals are described not as just that a funeral, but rather a ‘Thanksgiving for the life of …….. or Celebration of the life of ….’
The principal purpose of tomorrow’s funeral is or should be to pray for the soul of a sinful human being, Philip.
A celebration of the life of...'speaks to me of the secular understanding of death as the complete negation of what 'life' is about, and of the way in which death remains a kind of taboo subject in modern western culture. For Christians, though, death is understood as a part of life and as the gateway to the ultimate fulfilment of life. This does not mean, of course, that there is no place for sorrow when a loved one dies; but it does throw the emphasis upon the virtue of hope in the midst of sorrow, loss, and death. Happily, it is nearly always the case that there is a place for thanksgiving (to God) for the life of a person who has died, and this should and must find a place in the funeral rites. But there is a lot more to a Christian funeral service than this. To describe such a service as a celebration of the life of a person is reductive in the extreme, and a tendency that all Christian priests, ministers and people should resist.’
There is a lot to give thanks for in the life of prince Philip, and almost all of it has been much rehearsed over the past days and needs no repetition here. Not least of course is his sense of duty, his support of the Queen, his amazing public service which has brought benefit to so many in almost every corner of the world. We shall surely remember too, some of the darker periods in his life. He came from a seriously broken family; he became an exile and a refugee. And he made the most of it, taking advantage of every opportunity that came his way. By all accounts, perhaps because of his background, he became very much a steadying point for so many members of his own family. He seems to have been a ‘go to counsel’ for those who found themselves in difficulties of their own. One of his recorded remarks when someone said something rather disparaging about an episode in royal family life is telling: “We are a family, things like that happen in families.”
But Philip was not, as has also been much recorded, perfect, any more than the rest of us.
There will of course be prayers for the Royal Family, and especially the Queen. There will surely be thanksgiving for his character and many gifts. There will be pageantry and ceremonial. But I hope and pray that above all, there will be prayer for his soul.
May Philip Rest in Peace.
God save the Queen.
Added just after watching the funeral:
Well thank goodness I was not disappointed. Each of the Chapels Royal (and many parish churches including S. Stephen's) celebrated Requiem Mass for Prince Philip. The funeral rite in St George's Chapel in my opinion maintained perfect balance and dignity. I can only repeat what a friend and former colleague said:
"This is what Anglicanism ought to be.
Beautifully sung, dignified, understated, and hopeful. No vacuous entertainment.
The Dean of Windsor is an exemplar of how a member of clergy should conduct public liturgy."
Amen to that.