Tuesday, June 5, 2012


The Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II have featured some truly memorable scenes - starting with Sunday's floating feast on the River Thames. That amazing, historically resonant pageant, was made that much more dramatic by the pouring rain, which seemed to to emphasize traditional British perseverance in the face of adversity and also Her Majesty's own long life of devotion to duty (also despite adversity). Then there was last night's ceremony of lighting the National Beacon. The Queen, flanked by her heir and his wife (along with Paul McCartney and Elton John), received the tribute of her people as she lit the last of thousands of jubilee beacons. The National Anthem, always stirring, somehow sounded more heartfelt, sung by a crowd that just a few minutes earlier had responded with a full-throated roar to the Prince of Wales' touching suggestion that a good shout would be heard by his father from his hospital bed. And then came this morning's Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul's Cathedral, attended by a congregation of some 2000 invited guests, followed by the endless cheering of the massive crowds that accompanied the carriage procession to the Palace in the 1902 State Landau.
In a world where celebrity has eclipsed seriousness, where some people really are, as they say, "famous for being famous," even royalty sometimes suffer by comparison with temporary celebrities - or, even worse perhaps, see their royal role equated with passing celebrity. In such a world, Europe's remaining 10 monarchs have their work cut out for them if they are to be what they really are and remain about what they are supposed to be about. One of Queen Elizabeth II's significant personal accomplishments has been how well she has steered that course and always been a Queen, without aspiring to celebrity. So successful has she been as a person that her tireless devotion to her duty to her 16 kingdoms and the far-flung Commonwealth has earned her enormous appreciation and love - in spite of the obvious fact that the world she now reigns in is so sadly noted now for its failures precisely in such areas as fidelity and duty and devotion. Those in positions of civil or religious responsibility are constantly being advised to adapt themselves to today's ethos, to accomodate to our post-modern dumbed-down values. To all such advice, the Queen's well earned popularity offers a perennial rebuttal.
The Queen's devotion to duty has long been noted. What is also so noteworthy about it is its rootedness - her personal rootedness - in an authentic Christian faith. (Of all the arguments for an Established Church, perhaps the best is personified by the Queen herself). In a world so sadly bereft of serious models of social and civil engagement, in which, not un-coincidentally, examples of powerful Christian witness are also very much weakened and quieted, the Queen carries on, faithful to St. Paul's instruction in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans (read at this morning's service by the Queen's  own Prime Minister): think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

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