++Rowan's sermon in St Paul's pointed to Her Majesty as an exemplar of an ethic of dedicated service powerfully contrasting with the ethic of individualism, celebrity and consumption:
We are marking today the anniversary of one historic and very public act of dedication – a dedication that has endured faithfully, calmly and generously through most of the adult lives of most of us here. We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found. To seek one’s own good and one’s own well-being in the health of the community is sacrificially hard work – but it is this search that is truly natural to the human heart. That’s why 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.
Here we see something of the counter-cultural nature of a monarchy which flows from sacramental anointing. In a flattened public square - defined by the utilitarian values of Market, the Individual and the secular State - Elizabeth II speaks of a radically different vision. Pope Benedict's statement on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee captures this:
During the past sixty years you have offered to your subjects and to the whole
world an inspiring example of dedication to duty and a commitment to maintaining
the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, in keeping with a noble vision
of the role of a Christian monarch.
"A noble vision", not an anachronism. The anachronism is, as Elizaphanian reminds us, the very Enlightenment project which has given us the public square defined by the Market, the Individual and the secular State:
The Enlightenment project had a profoundly deficient understanding of what it
meant to be human and placed far too much weight on our capacity to think,
disregarding the importance of how we feel – and how our thinking and feeling
interact. As part of this Enlightenment project all of the building blocks of
human culture are dismantled and we become, not so much creatures planted in a
garden, but programs operating within a computer. Fortunately, the problems with
the Enlightenment project are now widely recognised, the ideal of a purely
rational re-building project is rejected, and the monarchy tends mostly to be
rejected by the crustiest of procrustean republicans who believe that it is
somehow radical and revolutionary to be supporting a centuries-old project that
has been a proven failure!
For some Anglicans - whether catholic, evangelical or liberal - the historic relationship between Anglicanism and the British monarchy is an embarrassment. For some, not least those living in republics, it is viewed as an irrelevance. The problem is that Anglicanism cannot be understood as a tradition, as a community of faith apart from its relationship with the Crown. Even for those Anglicans in republics, this can hold significance.
The historic relationship with the Crown speaks of Anglicanism's belief that the polity is no mere utilitarian contract to serve the Market or the autonomous Individual. For post-Christendom Anglicanism, the Church's proclamation should therefore seek to reshape the polity in light of the Cross and Resurrection of the Incarnate Word. This will take different forms in republics and in societies without an Anglican establishment. But it is a reminder that Anglicanism does not genuflect before the public square - we call on the public square to genuflect before before the Crucified and Risen One. Of this Queen Elizabeth II is an icon.