Queen’s Choice of Hymns & Scripture Readings
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth demonstrated the depth of her faith and understanding of the scriptures and hymnody when planning her funeral. The hymns were melodic works of substance, truth, and comfort designed for congregational singing. They were for congregational participation rather than observance. The portions of scripture were spot on perfect given the reason for the services.
The opening hymn for the service in Westminster Abbey was, “The Day Thou Gavest.” It is rarely heard these days but could not have been more appropriate. Here are the first two stanzas followed by the fifth.
“The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at thy behest;
To thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
“We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
“So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.|” John Ellerton (1826-1893)
Baroness Scotland was given the privilege of reading the lesson from 1 Corinthians 15 about the hope of the resurrection. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unlovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss, Prime Minster was tasked with reading the Gospel lesson chosen by the Queen. She read those familiar, yet exclusive words from John 14:1-9. Verse 6 is particularly clear, “Jesus saith unto him, I am he way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” The Archbishop of Canterbury mentioned only the first half of that verse in his sermon.
The Gospel lesson was then followed with the familiar setting of the Twenty-third Psalm from the Scottish Psalter.
The final hymn was Charles Wesley’s, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” Given that the service was the funeral for the most famous monarch in modern history, it was particularly poignant and spoke of the Queen’s Christ-centred, heartfelt and forward looking hope.
“Finish then thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee,
Changed from glory into glory
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!”