Archbishop Explores Deep Roots of 'Dedication' on Queen's Jubilee

(Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury)The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Willilams and his wife Jane Williams host Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at Lambeth Palace ahead of a multi-faith reception at Lambeth Palace on February 15, 2012.

The Church of England's senior bishop, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recognized the service of Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday in a National Service of Thanksgiving in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee, encouraging listeners to realize the deep meaning of the word 'dedication' as being "absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God."

Rev. Williams, preaching at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Tuesday at the end of several days of celebration, began by recalling the words of St. Paul who asked that believers "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God."

He noted in a video released by his office last week that while the Queen has the title "Supreme Governor of the Church of England" it doesn't mean she's the head of the church but instead they are the "final court of appeal, they're the person that makes the final decision about what the church can do and can't do in law."

He said in the video that among her other titles she is "Defender of the Faith" and that by "being the guardian of the Christian faith as held by the Church of England she establishes a real place for faith in the public life and the Queen has been amazingly affirming in recent years of the presence of other religions as part of the tapestry of British life, so I think we've seen a transformation of the meaning of that term in the last few decades. And a transformation that has done nothing but good to our society."

Rev. Williams, discussing the Queen's approach to her coronation ceremony 60 years earlier, explained that the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time "wrote a special book of prayers for her to use every day in the months leading up to the coronation."

"She still has that book – I know she treasures it; I've seen it in Windsor Castle. And I think it does make it very clear that she approached this with great seriousness, with a lot of prayer, a lot of reflection – really seeing it as a call, a gift from God."

During his sermon on Monday, Rev. Williams recalled the Queen's commitment to dedicate herself to the people she would be governing, noting that the word dedication was more than just being "very enthusiastic."

"[I]n the deep background of the word is the way it is used in classical and biblical language: in this context, to be 'dedicated' is to be absolutely removed from other uses, being completely available to God.

The implications of such dedication to the community – in her case both a national and international community – considering her well being, happiness, and contentment as tied to the people she has vowed to serve.

"It is an ambitious, even an audacious thing to aim at. It is, of course, no more so than the ideals set before all Christians who try to model their lives on what St Paul says about life in the Body of Christ," Rev. Williams said.

He noted St. Paul was not calling for believers to develop a "self-punishing attitude" but rather calling for a "genuine embrace of those others, a willingness to be made happy by the well-being of our neighbours."

He said it's not "at all fanciful to say" that the Queen, in her public engagements, the Queen "has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others."

Looking at a broader perspective, Rev. Williams said that Moralists will make no difference "unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other's happiness and safety.

He said such an attitude would "save us from the traps of financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us."

"We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found," he said.

He says "it is not a matter of tight-lipped duty or grudging compliance with someone else's demands. Jesus himself says 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me,' and that's what is at the heart of real dedication."

He said the most lasting memorial beyond the various events surrounding the Queen's jubilee celebrations would be a "rebirth of a recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good."

"May we be given the grace to rediscover this as we give thanks today for Her Majesty's sixty years of utterly demanding yet deeply joyful service," he concluded.

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