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Archbishop of Armagh’s Address at Diamond Jubilee Service at St Macartin’s Cathedral

Press Releases

Added on 26/06/2012

HM Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has attended a Service of Thanksgiving in St Macartin’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Enniskillen to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were greeted by The Very Revd Kenneth Hall, Dean of Clogher, and went on to meet The Most Revd Alan Harper, OBE, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland; The Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and The Right Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher.

The Thanksgiving Service, coordinated by the Lord Chamberlain’s office and attended by a congregation of around 750, was conducted by The Very Revd Kenneth Hall. The Lesson, St. Matthew 7:1–5,12,24–27, was read by The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA First Minister of Northern Ireland. The Prayers of Intercession were led by the Revd Ken Lindsay, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland; His Eminence Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and the Right Revd Dr Roy Patton, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The Sermon – text provided below – was delivered by The Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh, who later also went on to pronounce the Blessing. In his sermon, the Archbishop said: ‘“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them,” Jesus said, “will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock” – the rock of the Words and the Wisdom of the Son of God. Your Majesty, it is upon that rock that you have built your life and answered every call of duty.’

The Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher, led the Diamond Jubilee Prayer, a prayer written at the Queen’s direction by the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral for Her Majesty’s Jubilee.

Transcript of the Archbishop of Armagh’s Address at the Service of Thanksgiving

“In everything”, Jesus said, “do to others as you would have them to do to you.”
[Matt. 7.12a]

In Israelite tradition the year of Jubilee was a resetting of the clock, a new beginning. It heralded an end to distortions accumulated in the past and freedom for those in slavery or bondage. It is in the context of new beginnings, an end to distortions and injustice, with a new freedom from enslavement to the past, that I reflect on this unique and historic occasion.

All remember, and some were present to witness, the moving events of Your Majesty’s State Visit, the visit of Banrion Eilis a do, to the Republic of Ireland. For many it was an occasion of profound significance and deep emotion. It felt like the completion of an assent, at the highest level, to a process announcing a new day for all the people of this island.

It was an assent that urges us and sets us free to build, perhaps for the first time ever in the recorded history of this island, an authentic Pax Hibernica. Shackles, which had been steadily loosening since the cease–fires and the Belfast Agreement, finally fell away, giving us a new freedom to be positively, rather than merely negatively, ourselves.

The principal actors in that assent to the shearing of the shackles were two women: one a monarch, one a president; one baptized Elizabeth, one baptized Mary; both steeped in the practice and the values of the Christian Faith.

As the emotional tide of May 2011 recedes, the focus turns to sustainability: to consolidating the Pax and securing the future. For this we shall require more enduring foundations for our community life than those that proved so inadequate in the past. We must build on the rock of a shared future, not the sand of divide and rule.

Virtuous foundations are essential for the survival of any human construct. Foundations that are secure must be formed of sustainable values. Values that are sustainable transcend mere self–interest. Secure values are established when societies and individuals look beyond self–advantage towards the greater good and the judgments of eternity.

Queen Elizabeth I, in her “Golden Speech” to Parliament on 30 November 1601 declared,

“I have ever used to set the Last Judgment before mine eyes and so to rule as I shall be judged to answer before a higher judge.”

It was in the sight and in acknowledgement of that same eternal judge that you, Your Majesty, in your speech at Lambeth Palace insisted,

“Our religions provide critical guidance for the way we live our lives, and for the way in which we treat each other. Many of the ideas and values we take for granted in this and other countries originate in the ancient wisdom of our traditions. Even the concept of Jubilee is rooted in the Bible.”

You went on to say that religion “remind(s) us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves.”

Building a future, by its very nature, calls us to look beyond ourselves. It is inevitably and rightly a shared enterprise, a corporate exercise, but one to be undertaken in a spirit of keen sensitivity to the needs, even the quirks, of ordinary individuals in all their diversity. Legislators, administrators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and shapers of opinion must look beyond themselves and beyond self–advantage – electoral, financial or otherwise – to ensure that we build a society with an awareness of, and a reverence for, the individual needs of others.

“In everything”, our Lord said, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” This is “The Golden Rule”.

If, in our society, each member were to become committed to the Golden Rule we should have created a community replete with the fruits of justice and peace, a society in which none are marginalized because none are overlooked or ignored. If such an attitude were to become the centrepiece of our community life, how spectacular would be its transformation!

Observe the subtlety of The Golden Rule. Nowhere are we required to agree with one another or surrender heartfelt aspirations or principles. We are called upon neither to like the unlikeable nor to tolerate the intolerable. Rather, we are to use ourselves, and our own need for consideration, compassion and respect, as the benchmark against which we measure the attitudes and behaviour we deploy towards others.

Furthermore, Christ is very clear: before we have the temerity to set about correcting or condemning the outlook or attitudes of others we must first examine ourselves. Again, Jesus uses as a benchmark the self. If even half the time spent critiquing or seeking to amend the faults of others were to be spent in analysis and correction of our own faults; and if that were a mutual exercise so that while I examine and correct myself you are examining and correcting yourself – if we each took responsibility for ourselves, rather than presuming to do so for one another – disharmony would dissipate like the early mist of morning on the still waters of Lough Erne.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them,” Jesus said, “will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock” – the rock of the Words and the Wisdom of the Son of God. Your Majesty, it is upon that rock that you have built your life and answered every call of duty.

Queen Elizabeth I drew her “Golden Speech” towards its close with these words,

“For myself I was never so much enticed with the glorious name of a King or the royal authority of a Queen as delighted that God hath made me his instrument to maintain his truth and glory and defend his kingdom….”

We recognize in Queen Elizabeth II that same deep commitment to defending the faith and maintaining the truth and glory of God.

The first Queen Elizabeth continued,

“And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.”

In that the first Queen Elizabeth was mistaken. She did not anticipate the reign of her Elizabethan successor for whose sixty years of duty, devotion and service we say, “Thanks be to God”.

ENDS


 

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