‘St. Mary; Death of Queen Elizabeth II’ – 11th September 2022

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22 09 11 The Blessed Virgin Mary Eucharist v2

The Readings

2 Corinthians 4.16-5.4

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Luke 1.39-47

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour'

The Sermon

By Canon Dr Alan Billings


Our service today has more than one focus and as a result it produces in us a mix of emotions.

In the normal course of things, this would simply have been our patronal festival. We would be celebrating and giving thanks for the one to whom our church is dedicated – Mary, the mother of our Lord. But this week our Queen died and we have a new King. So celebration, but sorrow too. Let’s try and bring these emotions and themes together – reflecting on two lives and two mothers, starting with Blessed Mary.

The gospel reading this morning speaks of a young woman who is pregnant, Mary. She has just been told by the angel that she will give birth to the Son of God. She now goes to visit her much older cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant.

So the life of Jesus Christ begins and ends with this young woman, Mary, his mother.

And Mary learns very early on what it means to be a mother, a parent – which is that the more you love your children, the more vulnerable you make yourself if they come to grief.

Shortly after Jesus is born, she goes with her husband, Joseph, from Nazareth to Jerusalem to present the young child to God in the Temple. They are met there by an old man, of deep faith, Simeon. He tells Mary that her son will grow up to have a significant impact on many people’s lives.

I think Mary would have heard those words with some nervousness, but mainly with pride. What mother wouldn’t be pleased to hear that her son’s life would be meaningful and worthwhile?

But then Simeon says: But a sword will pierce your own heart.

A sword will pierce your own heart. Why? Because the more she loves him, the more she can be hurt by him and what happens to him. His life will bring her joy, yes, but grief also. This is the vocation of parenthood, of motherhood. Vulnerability.

We can only guess at what those moments of anxiety might have been as the child grows up. Though we are given a glimpse of one such. We are told, you’ll remember, that Mary and Joseph return home from a visit to Jerusalem on one occasion and realise that Jesus, now twelve years old, is not with their friends and neighbours. I expect many of us have experienced one of those heart stopping moments when we have looked around for our child – on the beach, at the shops - and they seem not to be there.

But the final piercing of Mary’s heart will come at the end of her son’s life. He will die before her. And she will have to stand helplessly by as he is put to death publicly and in the most cruel and barbaric way.

The more you love, the more you can be hurt. A sword will pierce your own heart.

I have found those words popping into my head several times over the last couple of days as we have all been coming to terms with the death of Queen Elizabeth, and reflecting on her life.

For years we have been sharing her life – not only as head of state but also as a wife and mother – because she was the first monarch of the television age and the age of the mobile phone... and that has brought her into our homes in a way that never happened before.

We have watched how she has borne the ups and downs of family life - as we all do – though she has had to do all that publicly. And some of the griefs and sorrows have been particularly painful. A sword will pierce your own heart.

We have also realised something else in these last few days. When she dedicated her life – ‘whether it be long or short’ as she said - to one of service to us, we became, as it were, her extended family.

So that what happened to us, her extended family, also affected her deeply – whether that was the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Grenfell Tower fire or the Manchester arena bombing. A sword will pierce your own heart.

And she made her concern clear by visiting people and places in times of tragedy or broadcasting to us in times of anxiety, offering reassurance.

As Anglicans, we know that each Sunday our late Queen, the Supreme Governor of our Church, was in church listening to the same passages of scripture as us, drinking from the same spiritual well as us. What shapes our character as Anglicans, as members of a parish church, also shaped the way she understood her role as Queen – to look away from ourselves, to be of service to others.

But these roles – parent, mother, monarch, church member – require an emotional investment. And that make us vulnerable to that sword that pierces the heart.

This is what we saw in our queen and this is what we remember and thank her for today.

The Prayers

Prepared by David.

As we pray to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we say with Mary:
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

Your prophet of old foretold a day when a virgin would conceive
and bear a son who would be called God-with-us.
Help us to look forward to your deliverance
and to seek the fullness of your kingdom.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

Your angel declared to Mary that she was to be
the mother of the Saviour.
Help us all to be open to your word
and obedient to your will.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

Mary rejoiced with her cousin Elizabeth and sang your praise,
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.’
Help us to live joyful lives that sing your praise.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

Mary bore a son of David’s line,
a king whose reign would never end.
Bless all the nations of the world with Christ’s gift of peace.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

The child Jesus grew in wisdom and stature
in the home of Mary and Joseph.
Strengthen our homes and families,
and keep under your protection all those whom we love.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

The apostle John saw a vision of a woman in heaven,
robed with the sun.
Bring us with Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Shaun and all those who have died in the faith of Christ
to share the joy of heaven with Mary and all the saints.
We give you thanks:
for her love of family and her gift of friendship;
for her devotion to this nation and the nations of the Commonwealth;
for her grace, dignity and courtesy;
and for her generosity and love of life.
We praise you for:
the courage that she showed in testing times;
the depth and of her Christian faith;
and the witness she bore to it in word and deed.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

At the foot of the cross of Christ stood his mother,
and from the cross she received his lifeless body in her arms.
Give comfort and healing to all who suffer
and all who watch the suffering of those they love.
We pray for our Sovereign Lord the King
and all the Royal Family,
that you might reassure them of your continuing love
and lift them from the depths of grief
into the peace and light of your presence.
Lord, have mercy on those who fear you.
Holy is your name.

Almighty and everlasting God,
your handmaid Mary magnified your name
and rejoiced in your saving love:
trusting in that same love,
we ask all these our prayers
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.