Some of you may have seen the funeral service of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday, 17th April (in the middle of the night, our time). We have a tremendous blessing in Australia, that our Commonwealth is ruled by a Christian woman, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second and that throughout her married life, our Queen has been accompanied by a Christian husband.
Prince Philip was baptised as a child through the Greek Orthodox Church on the Greek Island of Corfu and he was later received into the Anglican Church. Throughout his life, Prince Philip walked in the grace of his baptism and left us with a witness of Christian worship and service.
In particular, the Prince guided the form and content of his own funeral. It is commonly known that he asked for his coffin to travel in a “Land Rover” to St George’s chapel, but he also gave a profound witness in the selection of what was to be sung and read during his funeral.
You are actually able to read the whole funeral service online, as the Palace has released the order. As you read the order you notice the first reading from the “Old Testament Apocrypha” book, Ecclesiasticus. This may not be familiar to many, but when you realise this reading followed the well-loved hymn “Eternal Father, strong to save”, you begin to appreciate what message Prince Philip was giving to his family and to the world.
Both the reading and the hymn tell of God’s great might over all creation, particularly the wind and the waves, captured especially in the work of our Lord Jesus who “walkedst on the foaming deep.” Through his service in the Royal Navy, including during war-time, Prince Philip was formed in his faith, to trust God’s guiding hand.
This is a lasting witness from our Queen’s beloved husband, for the world, still in the midst of pandemic. With Prince Philip, we learn to pray, “O Trinity of Love and power, our brethren shield in danger’s hour, from rock and tempest, fire and foe, protect them whereso’er they go.”
Let me end this reflection for you, with the actual opening words of Prince Philip’s funeral: those wonderful promises of the Risen Lord which were sung by the Choir at the funeral, “I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11. 25–26)
(Prince Philip’s funeral order is here.)