Viewpoint by Revd Pep Hill, Associate Priest in the Harborough Anglican Resource Church Team
A common theme cropping up in the tributes to HRH Prince Philip, is that he always tried to be there for others. For his children, as they were growing up, he was able to support and urge them on to be the best they could be. And for his beloved wife, our Queen he spent his entire life supporting her, there by her side, helping her in the most difficult of tasks. He was clearly a gifted man in his own right, but never competed for the limelight and was prepared to take a subservient role for the greater good.
I wonder how difficult he found it? If we are to believe the dramatized Netflix series The Crown, it took him some time to come to terms with the sacrifice he was being asked to make. I can believe that – he was a young man with a glittering naval career when Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne, and their life changed for ever from having some freedom, choice and certainly privilege, to one of duty and service.
Living our lives by a sense of duty is unfashionable now – we are encouraged to cast off any expectations of others and to be free to be whoever we want to be, to strive for what makes us happy. But unfortunately, this way of living, where our only aim is our own satisfaction, simply doesn’t make us happy.
Conversely, those people who seem to be the happiest are usually the ones who spend most of their time and energy trying to help and encourage others. I wonder if Prince Philip found this out for himself – that in sacrificing his own ambition, desires and aspirations for his Queen, his family and the Commonwealth, he found a satisfaction and contentment, and that through their achievements, he was able to find his own fulfilment.
This way of living requires a huge amount of courage. We are not wired to give up our ‘rights’ easily and our society is becoming more and more focused on those rights, making it harder all the time. It only makes any sense in the context of a bigger picture, a grand narrative such as Christianity, following the radical teaching of Jesus that in losing our life, we will find it.
But our loving Father God knows that this is hard, and sends Jesus to be ‘God with us’, our Emmanuel, and after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit is with us for ever as our comforter and guide to connect us to the Divine through a relationship of love.
Most of us will understand how much Prince Philip’s friends and family will miss him as one who was always there for them – this last year has been one of loss and grieving for so many. But I am thankful I know that God is always there with me too, and with all those who have invited the Divine Presence into their lives.
Revd Pep Hill is Associate Priest in the Harborough Anglican Resource Church Team