“For a man like no other it was a funeral like no other…. There was no mistaking the Duke of Edinburgh’s hand in every detail.” Gordon Raynor, journalist.
“Come all you no hopers, you jokers and rogues,
We’re on the road to nowhere – let’s find out where it goes.
It might be a ladder to the stars, who knows?” Song by Port Isaacs Fisherman’s Choir.
Today’s reading involves two of the downcast followers of Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem, that first Easter Day. They are not disciples – the Eleven remained in Jerusalem – and so perhaps had not spent as much time with him but, being joined by Jesus, they are unable to recognise him. They tell him everything that has happened since his arrest and death and, as they travel, Jesus then explains the scriptures to them to help them understand what is happening. Still they don’t realise that it’s him and it’s only when he’s invited in to share a meal with them that they recognise Jesus as he breaks bread in that unmistakeable way and they can comprehend the reality before them. Until then, their grief and confusion overwhelmed them but, now, their burning hearts spur them into action and they completely change their plans. Immediately, although it’s getting late, they set out to return to Jerusalem where they find the disciples and what has happened is shared. Jesus is alive and recognised by his actions.
Yesterday, at the funeral of Prince Philip, members of his families also set out on a sorrowful journey in Windsor as they accompanied him on his last journey to rest in St George’s Chapel. But this was a royal funeral like no other and details important to the Duke of Edinburgh left an unmistakeable sign of his service, character and priorities despite the solemnity of the occasion. The representatives of the Armed Forces, the adapted Landrover bearing his coffin with his cap and sword from his days in the Navy, as well as his carriage with his hat, gloves and sugar lumps for his horses and the service itself had clearly been carefully planned to reflect Prince Philip’s interests. Only thirty distanced people could be present due to the Coronavirus restrictions and many spoke later of the balm this and the carefully planned service with its words of faith and beautiful music must have brought to the hearts also aching from death, grief and loneliness during the pandemic as millions of others watched through the media. Events since his death seem to have created a new perception of Prince Philip who had sometimes been seen by some as cantankerous and difficult but who, in the stories shared about him and his preparation for his funeral, was also a man of thought, care and detail.
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
With my prayers,