As many have noted, the death of Queen Elizabeth II marks the end of an era. She is one of the stand-out figures of the 20th century. One member of the community said to me this weekend, “I was surprised at how sad I felt when I heard.” It is a sentiment I share, and it points to a sense of loss many of us are still trying to describe.
Among much else, the queen was a faithful and devout Christian. On the day after her death, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told an interviewer that at his last meeting with the queen in June, “I came away thinking there is someone who has no fear of death, has hope in the future, knows the rock on which she stands and that gives her strength.” The queen herself spoke often of her faith and how it sustained her in her work. She understood her service as queen to be her response to God’s call on her life.
As I have reflected on the queen’s death, I found myself turning to Paul’s teaching about the fruits of the spirit in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) In particular, I found myself dwelling on the last one most of all: self-control. The queen has been described in recent days as disciplined and restrained. Across seven decades, the queen consistently, and in a quite remarkable way, demonstrated a continual subordination of her own views to the institution of the monarchy she embodied. At times, she was criticized for this but it was clear that she understood this self-control to be vital to her role. It cannot have been easy.
Perhaps I found myself dwelling on this because self-control sometimes seems most pronounced by its absence today. We have political leaders who thrive on instability and chaos. We are proving unable as human society to discipline our impulses to consume. The queen’s death is the end of an era but I pray it is not the end of gracious restraint and self-control.
Many of us are still wrestling with the complex feelings provoked by the queen’s death, not only about her but also about the country and empire she represented. It is also right that in the outpouring of attention directed to the death of one woman we not lose sight of the tremendous suffering elsewhere in the world. In the midst of all this, however, I think it is still possible to reflect on and give thanks for the death of an exceptional character and stand-out figure, who, in many respects, offered a model of what it means to live one’s Christian faith on a daily basis.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
This message was written by Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.