Sixty nine years after Her Late Majesty came to Westminster Abbey to be anointed, crowned and enthroned her mortal remains were taken to the Abbey for her funeral service. Her recent physical death, however, is of little importance compared to the death that she underwent at her coronation in 1953. For the death she underwent then was a metaphysical death, a great death upon the Altar of God.A Queen de jure – Catholic Herald
Sixty nine years after Her Late Majesty came to Westminster Abbey to be anointed, crowned and enthroned her mortal remains were taken to the Abbey for her funeral service. Her recent physical death, however, is of little importance compared to the death that she underwent at her coronation in 1953. For the death she underwent then was a metaphysical death, a great death upon the Altar of God.
The future Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh was in the congregation at the Abbey that day, and later recounted how the Queen had entered the Abbey, escorted by two bishops, as she went “forth consciously to the Altar of the Living God, to be a living sacrifice, like the daughter of Jephthah – to die to herself, in order to live with and for her people…the young Queen did not prepare her heart for a feast, but for a consecration.”
Like the heroes of Greek tragedy, the chief characters in Shakespeare’s plays are of noble or royal birth, thereby stressing the essential nobility of the human condition, bearer as each of us is of a “spark” of the divine. Shakespeare’s heroes understand that they must die. When they slay themselves by falling on their swords, holding the cross on the hilt, they are sacrificing their outer life to penetrate the inner life of the spirit. As Shakespeare writes: “Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.”
Christ said “I am the life,” and it is the death of Christ that St Paul tells us to carry, so that the Life of Christ can be manifest in our bodies. In modern times, however, we have lost sight of this paradoxical oneness of living and dying. We tend now to see life as being distinguished from and opposed to death. We have forgotten that life comes from God, not from the world. We have reduced life to a matter of physical survival, a life that is brought to an end by physical death. We have forgotten the true life that lives in the life of the spirit. We have turned life into an idol and a blasphemy.
Fundamentally, there are two types of dying. There is a physical dying and death, and there is a metaphysical dying and death. Compared to a metaphysical dying and death, purely physical dying and death are incidental. For a metaphysical death is a death that releases the soul from “the body of this death.” In dying to ourselves we are awakened to the Life that is the ultimate ground of all, as promised by Christ who declares of Himself “I am the Life” and that “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).
Those who, like our late Queen, have gone forth to the altar of God as a living sacrifice will not see death – in the same way that “By faith Enoch was translated so that he did not have to see death.” (Hebrews 11.5). For such a person has, during the course of their earthly life, succeeded in breaking their links with “the body of this death.” Clearly, we do not know much about the life that awaits those who, like Enoch, “will not see death.” But Richard Crashaw gives us a sense of it in his Hymn to St Terese:
Of a Death, in which who dies
Loves his death, and dies again.
And would for ever be so slain.
And lives, and dies; and knows not why
To live, But that he thus may never leave to Die.”
At the end of the funeral service in Westminster Abbey Her Late Majesty’s body was taken to St George’s Chapel Windsor for burial. St George’s Chapel is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter, founded in the fourteenth century. The Order’s Patron Saints are St George and the Blessed Virgin Mary, symbols of the ideals of Knighthood and Womanhood.
Garter Knights are encouraged to revere the spiritual principle represented by womanhood as the completion of the masculine principle within themselves. St George and the Blessed Virgin Mary conjure up a picture of knights overcoming the dragon of their lower selves and being rewarded with spiritual bliss. The Order’s glorification of the Ideal Woman as the spiritual principle culminated two hundred years later in the reign of Elizabeth the Virgin Queen.
Synesius, a fourth century Greek bishop, who preached “On Kingship” to the Emperor Arcadius, asks “what is the thing that proves a man to be a king de jure?” He then answers his own question saying that it is that he is good, “for he is the earthly namesake of God” and “no matter how great is their divergence as to the nature of the deity all men agree that God is good.”
We can, surely, all agree that Elizabeth was indeed good. She was a Queen de jure.
God save the King.
Mark Jenkins commanded The Prince of Wales’s Company between 1998 and 2001. Between 2002 and 2003 he travelled extensively in Russia and Northern Greece, and was presented to HM The King while on Mount Athos in 2003. He is now an explorer and a free lance writer.