A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
I am sure many of you will remember from your history lessons at school, that one thousand and thirty nine years ago – in 973 – Edgar was crowned in Bath Abbey as King of the English. The actual service had been devised by St Dunstan and has continued to form the basis of every British Coronation Service ever since. From that time onwards right up to the coronation of our present Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth, the coronation of the monarch has been recognised as a Sacramental – a means of receiving God’s grace for the task to which one has been called. The significant part of this ceremony is the anointing with oil of Chrism by the Archbishop of Canterbury and used as a sign that the person so anointed is from that moment set apart by Christ to his service. The precedent for this is to be found in the OT where both Saul and David were in turn anointed as king by the prophet Samuel.
This past week we have been celebrating the accession of Her Majesty, the beginning of the monarch’s reign which leads eventually to confirmation in the Coronation service, but from the moment of her accession, she is indeed Queen, the coronation being the sealing, so to speak of the acceptance of that great task to which she has been called.
‘The accession has always had a significant place in the Liturgy of the Church of England and provision has been made for special services on the anniversary of the monarch, since 1576. Today, those services – Matins and Evensong, the Te Deum and the Holy Communion with special Collect, Epistle, Gospel and Intercessions, appear at the end of the Book of Common Prayer. They have been reaffirmed by each new Sovereign, as official services in the Church of England for use in all churches and chapels in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. ’ Our Queen Elizabeth re-issued this authority on 10th March 1952, to take effect on 6th February the following year. ‘Accept O Lord, our humble prayers for this our Sovereign Lady as of this day set over us by thy grace, to be our Queen.
Sixty Glorious years – and what have they meant to us? Some of you here were not born when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne but all of you have experienced something of her influence in your lives- influence not in the sense of authoritative command but rather in the sense of example. Example as a mother who has experienced and dealt with breakdowns in her children’s relationships; a mother who is anxious about her son’s service in international warfare; a wife who has experienced the joys and the demands of marriage; a daughter who has experienced sorrow and heartbreak at the loss of a loved one; the head of a nation and a Commonwealth who has had to face and cope with changes in society in matters of moral values as well as cultural and religious practices- sometimes in the face of severe and cruel criticism. All of these experiences are common to many of us too, but for Elizabeth, they have always taken second place to her duty to her Church, and her Country. Her commitment , her sense of duty, her sacrifice in the cause of duty of so many experiences and emotions that we take for granted- lack of privacy being just one – examples that many of us would find impossible to bear. Duty, service – always come first.
I was asked a little while ago what the actual letters F.D meant, letters which we see on coins of the realm. They are two of the many titles that Her Majesty bears – FD Fide Defensor, Defender of the Faith, a title originally given by Pope Leo X in 1521 to Henry VIII for defending the doctrine of the Seven Sacraments of the Church against their attack by Martin Luther- although by the time of the Reformation, it was seen rather to imply Defender of the Reformed Protestant Faith and has continued as such to this day. But how appropriate that title is for Our Majesty – her faith, her belief in God is no secret, her interest and support of the Christian faith is unchallengeable and her family and social values are firmly rooted in her Christian upbringing – as her Christmas broadcasts for example increasingly bear witness to.
Another Title that emphasises her religious commitment in the life of our nation is that of Supreme Governor of the Church of England ,the role that binds us together in faith. This title asserts the Monarch’s responsibility before God for the welfare of the Church and ensures the continuance of our Christian heritage and influence in the affairs of government both judicial and civil.
We celebrated yesterday, and we will continue to celebrate in days and weeks ahead, but let us do so not out of sheer routine but with a true and sincere sense of thankfulness that we have a Monarch who is totally committed to faith and trust in Christ and confidently displays that faith and trust in the example that she sets before us. A Monarch who carries her titles with dignity and belief, a Monarch who imitates Christ in the privilege of service.
May we sincerely pray what we say when we proclaim God Save the Queen.