The FAITH OF A QUEEN
Since Queen Elizabeth’s death, many words have been spoken, photos displayed, opinions expressed and conjectures shared. One thing frequently mentioned has been Her Majesty’s faith in God. The often quoted words in her first Christmas broadcast in 1952 asked for people to pray for her. Her request was that God might “give her wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises” that she would be making and that she might faithfully serve God and her people, all the days of her life.
In this she set down two elements under one – that she would serve God all the days of her life and that because of this she would serve others. It’s a statement of intent which would be symbolized in her Coronation service the following year. As part of the service she was anointed with holy oil to show that her life was being consecrated to God and dedicated to his service. The Anointing was a form of ordination that would seal this and Elizabeth knew that once she had undertaken this there was no way she could turn her back on God. This was literally something she must do ‘for life’.
Behind her determination to do this was the steadfastness of her faith, rooted as it was in a deep personal prayer life and sustained and fed by the Church. This faith was fed too by her knowledge of Jesus Christ and to learn more about this we need only go to her annual Christmas Broadcasts where she spoke of Jesus’ teachings, handed down from generation to generation, as having been the bedrock of her faith – she found in Jesus an inspiration for her own life, saying, in 2014:
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, (whose birth we celebrate today), is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
The maturity of her faith, while often tested, carried her through real dark moments. She believed very strongly in the power of forgiveness to foster and encourage healing. In her 2011 broadcast she said that ‘Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian Faith. It can heal broken families, restore friendships and reconcile divided communities.
That is the application of forgiveness but Queen Elizabeth went much further: “It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” For her personally this was given perhaps its hardest test when she shook hands with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness in a gesture seen as a vital step in securing reconciliation between nationalists and unionists in a troubled Northern Ireland, for this was the same Martin McGuinness who had been deeply involved in the murder of Prince Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, years earlier.
Recognizing the heavy demands on life in the modern world led her to offer great support and comfort in the Covid Lockdowns. Speaking encouragingly, she told us that this darkness would pass, we would gather as families and we would meet again.
In hard times she turned to her faith:
“I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
She noted “that Christ not only revealed to us the truth of his teachings. He lived by what he believed and gave us the strength to try to do the same – and, finally, on the cross, he showed the supreme example of physical and moral courage.”
And in 1980, she spoke of the need to look beyond ourselves:
“In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christmas stands for the opposite… we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.”
Her life was rooted in prayer and in a desire to learn more of God’s love.
“For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.”
“Good spreads outwards and every little (good) does help. Mighty things from small beginnings grow as indeed they grew from the small child of Bethlehem.”
She believed firmly “that God sent his only Son to serve, not to be served”
And she went on to say: “It is my prayer that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.”
This was at the heart of her own life of duty and faithfulness. Someone has described her as our ‘servant-hearted Queen’ – how true that is.