Isaiah 25:6–9; Psalm 22, Romans 8:31–35. 37–39; John 12:23–26
Choosing readings for a funeral is something of a 'desert island disks' exercise - the limit of the number of readings that can be used in one service can make the choice particularly difficult. There is a good selection offered by the liturgy office.
Even with their help to narrow down the choice, there are decisions to be made. One might reflect on how the deceased lived his or her life - a life dedicated to the search for God might suggest "Now may your servant go in peace" (Luke 2: 28). A life generously give to the service of others, "If a wheat grain dies, it yields a rich harvest." (John 12: 23). Some might plan to bequeath a (hopefully well intended) message to those they leave behind. Others might be chosen as the scripture selected was known to be a personal favourite of the deceased. As well as being the head of state, Queen Elisabeth was also head of a church, the Anglican Communion, and it is widely reported that she had designed her own funeral some time ago. So it will be a blessing to see what she has to say to us through her funeral liturgy today. As with all scripture, it will be worth a second or even third reading, so once we know what she chose, we shall share them here.
Each of us will have a personal thought about the queen. Even though republicans might wish that she never had her role, they are likely to recognise that in her life of service to all of our country, she has shown an exceptional ability to comfort the week, build up the unconfident, and guide those with authority. For those who ardently follow the cause of Royalty the Queen has provided ample evidence that the stability and confidence heads of state provide can not be matched by any other source. The great St Benedict, in his Rule, has wise things to say about the necessary qualities of an Abbot and it is probable that HM Queen Elizabeth likely was familiar with his guidance - she certainly followed it in practice. "Let him realise that his aim must be to profit for others", "hate evil but love the brethren", "not be moody or anxious or given to extremes". She manifested that and much more. We must certainly hope King Charles III continues in like vein and pray that he is given the gifts necessary to do so.
At her accession to the throne all those years ago, she promised "my life, long or short, will always be devoted to your service." This is, broadly, the same promise made to us by our Pope, who is "the servant of the servants of the poor". At St Gregory the Great in Cheltenham we have commemorated the Queen with four requiem masses and also at 16:00 on Monday, will say the evening prater from the office for the dead in our church. In union with all people of Faith, ee give thanks for her life of service, and pray for her and her family.
You are the author and sustainer of all human life; grant that your servant Elizabeth our Queen, to whom you granted a long and happy reign as Monarch of these lands may be forgiven her sins and rewarded with that eternal life promised to all those born again in the water of baptism and the power of your Spirit.
Eternal rest, grant to her O Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon Her. May She rest in peace;
May she rest in peace: