In this final passive act, the Queen called us to acknowledge not our inner selves, or our felt selves, or our authentic selves, or whatever the latest psychobabble bon mot is that describes incurvatus in se, (the self curved in on itself) – but God Himself above. Her commitment to transcendence – God’s transcendence meant that down here she lived a life lived outwardly and upwardly.
For one brief day the world was porous again.
For one brief day we recognised that the invisible world still leaks into the visible.
For one brief day – perhaps one final day – transcendence was admitted into the public square in the modern Western world, and we all stood and acknowledged it.
For one brief day the immanent frame of our secular imaginary was peeled back, and we were given a vision, albeit in shadow form, of what true majesty might look like.
And for one brief day the nation, indeed billions around the world, watched as a Queen, whose every fibre acknowledged that transcendence, was honoured and laid to rest.
And for an even briefer two minutes – the whole nation fell silent, and the shockwaves of that silence spread to us as well. No phones, no blips, no bleeps, no pings. Silence.
In this final passive act, the Queen called us to acknowledge not our inner selves, or our felt selves, or our authentic selves, or whatever the latest psychobabble bon mot is that describes incurvatus in se, (the self curved in on itself) – but God Himself above.
Her commitment to transcendence – God’s transcendence meant that down here she lived a life lived outwardly and upwardly. That Archbishop Justin Welby acknowledged that very fact as he opened his homily is worth noting.
I read in The Times just prior to the funeral that the word was that French President Emmanuel Macron would throw “a hissy fit” if he were not right up the front. Which of course makes sense coming from that most secular of countries in which the immanent frame is a public virtue. The desire for transcendence never leaves us, it is merely transferred. Perhaps he is aptly named Emmanuel.
Tony Blair’s senior advisor famously said that the British Government doesn’t “do God”. And, my, how it has shown over the decades since.
Perhaps, if I may be patriotic, a special thank you to our new Prime Minister in Australia, Anthony Albanese, whose grace, wisdom and manner has been exemplary for our nation at this time. Not too heavy, not too light. Just right. But then again, as he himself said, the Catholic Church is one of the great shapers of his own life. He knows transcendence when he sees it.
The Queen, however, was the ultimate counter to all the immanent politics. Her funeral was a breath-taking acknowledgement of the reality of heaven above us, hell below us.
The fact that seating arrangements were such as to ensure warring nations were kept apart, and ancient enmities acknowledged, shows how porous reality is. Hell has leaked upwards. It may be around for some time yet.
And the whole ceremony was a counter to the dreadful opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics – the high point of immanence in our public life – in which John Lennon’s Imagine was the opening hymn. Right in the midst of a pandemic we were told to look within ourselves and be happy. Imagine that indeed.
Imagine too if the Queen had died during the pandemic. We would have not witnessed what we did. Perhaps this was a gift from God to us, to give us one last look at something that publicly pointed to something – to Someone – beyond itself and beyond herself. Am I over-egging the cake?