A Prayer for the Duke of Edinburgh
‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant:
enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’ (Matthew 25.21)
God of majesty,
give rest to your servant Philip
who, having served his Queen and Country,
has passed from this life,
full of years yet strong in spirit.
As we give thanks for his life,
as Prince and husband,
as Consort and family man,
we pray that all that he has done
may continue to bear fruit
in the lives of individuals
and the life of this nation,
to your honour and glory,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
I will miss Prince Philip. I didn’t know him, never met him, and yet, along with The Queen, he has been there for the whole of my life to this point. It’s quite remarkable, when I stop to think about it, and as my 63rd birthday approaches, that this couple have symbolised and provided a sense of permanence and stability stretching back so far. Part of me thought it would go on for ever, and perhaps part of me wanted it to: there’s a lot to be said for continuity in a world of constant, rapid and sometimes bewildering change. I knew it couldn’t, of course, if only for the reason that we’re all mortal. Some things have to come to an end, just as new things will certainly come to birth; that’s the way of it. But endings can sometimes be hard beyond measure, and painful to bear. In the case of Prince Philip, at almost 100 years old, death hardly comes as a surprise, but it does mark the end of an era. The prayer above, written by the Dean of Southwark, Andrew Nunn, is succinctly insightful and encouraging. Although Prince Philip may have been frail in body lately, he undoubtedly was ‘full of years’ and remained, it seems, ‘strong in spirit’.
Many words have been written and spoken about the Prince this past week, and there will be more to come. As someone whose early life had its share of difficulties, he died as someone leaving behind a global legacy. I tend to think his famed no-nonsense approach would probably make him the first to urge those left behind to get on with life and living as best you can. Value what you can of the past, but, hard though it might be, have the courage and the faith to move on and look forward. His own interests in the environment, science, technology and engineering saw the Prince looking beyond his own horizons to new ones. His personal religious conviction and Christian faith were, by all accounts, strong, though not rigidly dogmatic. He engaged widely and actively with other belief systems and philosophies, and remained open to new ideas, possibilities and discoveries.
The Christian faith is one which looks to its past, but it doesn’t leave us there, constantly urging us to look ahead. The Eucharist is part memorial, but it nourishes and equips us for today and tomorrow. And the Christian philosophy always seems to me to be more interested in what we can yet become, rather than what defines our past. St Paul in the Letter to the Philippians puts it like this: ‘I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus’. It’s patently true that Good Friday brought death, with anguish, pain and tears. It made contemplating a different future a bleak, tough and daunting prospect for those left behind. But Easter Day dawned out of the darkness, promising much more than a ‘happy ever after’ ending to the story. Rather, it brought an insistence that new beginnings are possible, with a resurrection hope which has lasting significance, not just for a lifetime, but for all eternity.
Rev Neil Summers