Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us, for though my body die, my soul will be mindful of my people.
So wrote St John Chrysostom, on whose feast I am writing these words, since I am going away on holiday and must write well in advance of you reading this. Two things made these words seem relevant: firstly, the Queen’s deatth. Now, by the time you read this you may have been overwhelmed by the coverage and feeling that you could do with a rest from royalty until the coronation, but back where I am now, we are barely half way through so you will have to bear with me a bit. The other piece in the jigsaw of my thinking is the gospel for the Sunday you are reading this, that of Dives (as old fashioned folk like me still call him) and Lazarus. Now Lazarus has only a sort of carry on part, so we can leave him aside for the moment and concentrate on poor Dives, the rich man whose comfort and security in this life has betrayed him. The terror, for me, of his fate, is his utter aloneness. He is cut off from everyone, even Abraham, and being so isolated, can be of no help to anyone. It is perhaps that fear that prompts us to care so much for the faithful departed, to remember them and pray for them, to keep alive as much as we can the connection between us and to communion of all the faithful, living and dead, to be with them, to journey with them to a place where none of the senses we have now can guide us, those senses and ways of understanding the world that so misled Dives in his complacency and indifference. Instead, we must rely on faith and hope, and above all, love.
Which brings me back to the the exequies of the late Queen. They are solemn and moving, but are focussed on honouring what she has done; people seem, even when deeply touched by her passing, to lack the words to look anywhere but backwards, to be concerned with the Queen who was. But we ought to turn our minds to the Elizabeth who is. She is the one who needs our present prayers, our being with her, so that she may be with us. Or as St John Chrysostom put it;
You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, sisters, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.