As American democracy stumbles into the second year of fear and pandemic, we look to stable and true leaders. Thus, Prince Philip’s death has sounded a mournful note in the hearts of many.
Seeing the Queen sitting alone in the choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, masked and dressed in black, brought home the tragedy.
Philip lived a long life of duty as the Royal Consort to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Duty is out of fashion today. Someone once said that duty is the discipline of love. Love is not free, freewheeling, or freefalling. Love must be molded by sacrifice and care-full attention to the beloved. Love demands discipline; love demands duty.
I have read that Philip was outspoken. So in his duty and obedience to Elizabeth he did not give up his opinions, his integrity. Within the framework of his position and duties to the people of England and the Commonwealth (and there were many such claims upon him) he grew strong in his own person.
He was a man of faith, we are told. He could do broad Church or high Church Anglican, but the one he preferred was short Church, according to the Bishop Chartres. (Most of us can identify with such a preference.) And so his funeral was a simple one by royal standards, designed by him and subject to those fearful Coronavirus restrictions. He was true to himself in death and life. He was trustworthy.
I have found that being able to trust a person, to rely that they are truthful and supportive and dedicated to the right action, means a great deal. Truth, like duty, has been downgraded today, and undervalued in both public and private spheres. This is a national and international tragedy. For without trust and truth, we are blind.
And so as I tuned in to our virtual Eucharistic liturgies this morning in our Anglican Province of Christ the King, I thought of Philip and England and the Anglican Church. I thought of the Queen sitting alone in that massive choir in the chancel of St. George’s, waiting, sitting in mahogany stalls lined with white lanterns in the gothic abbey style. I thought of her strength in the face of so many heartbreaks and challenges. And I gave thanks for the pageantry and ceremony her reign ensured and continues to ensure, an ordered beauty of holiness that has been passed down through the centuries, ever since Thomas Cranmer produced our Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
For it is this tradition of ancient liturgy that we as Anglicans in America embrace, an ordered beauty of holiness expressing the inexpressible: the being of God, the love of God, His nature, His sacrifice, His offering Himself to us.
And today, Good Shepherd Sunday, we heard the powerful Gospel of Saint John, quoting Christ Jesus. Our Lord tells us that He is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. He knows us, and we know His voice. He protects us from wolves who scatter us. One day, Our Lord promises, there shall be one flock and one Shepherd, for all those who know His voice will be brought into his fold.
It is good to be strengthened by these words in this time of scattering, sheltering, masking, and fear of one another, distancing ourselves. Hearing these words spoken by different readers before different altars molded these truths into my heart and soul.
And while the image of Christ the Good Shepherd is strengthening and comforting, one of our preachers extended the image by saying we must all take on this nature of Christ. We must become shepherds too, bringing in lost sheep to the fold of the Church. We sometimes treat our fellow faithful as a social club or even unwittingly a burial society, closed and close and comfortable. We must be like the Good Shepherd and look out for the lost and suffering, healing them with the words and liturgies of God made Man, in His Church.
How do we do this? We love our fellow man, in exercise of duty. We tell the truth, we sing the truth, and we hold the truth high for all to see. We are not ashamed of who we are. We do not remain silent in the midst of tyranny and lies. We mentor the next generations. We turn no one away.
We practice the ten commandments, the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and learn how to do this in weekly, if not daily, reading of Scripture, and with our own Baptisms and Confirmations and Eucharists in the Body of Christ, the Church.
Our Diocese of the Western States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, will be consecrating a new bishop this week. Bishops carry a crook, or staff, for they are shepherds, looking to bring in the lost, to teach the saved, to be pastors and priests to the clergy in their charge. They watch for wolves who devour and divide. They tell the truth about man and God, about who we are and who we are meant to be. They comfort us with historic, witnessed, creeds and doctrine. They give us opportunities to be shepherds. They teach us how to love as Christ Jesus loves.
And so, Prince Philip was laid to rest. Well done, good and faithful servant. The world will miss you and all that you quietly did and humbly were. Rest in peace until the trumpet sounds and we all shall rise again.