Contemplation on Hymn used at Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral- Hugh Wetmore

This week I watched the funeral service for Queen Elizabeth II at the majestic Westminster Cathedral.  You probably watched it too.

I was impressed with the imaginative choice of a standard evening hymn as the opening congregational song for her funeral — and that vast congregation knew how to sing it!  It was The day Thou gavest, Lord, has ended

It was unexpectedly appropriate.  Think through the lyrics (with my application at the end — comments in brackets; funeral application in italics).  Let’s sing this great hymn more often! (See the modernised language in Hymns for Today’s Church (Hodder & Stoughton © 1982, 1987, or modernise it yourself).

The King leads follows the Queen’s coffin out of the Abbey after the service (PHOTO: The Guardian)


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The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended:

the darkness fall at Thy behest;

to Thee our morning hymns ascended,

Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.


We thank Thee that Thy church unsleeping,

while earth rolls onward into light,

through all the world her watch is keeping,

and rests not now by day or night.


As o’er each continent and island

the dawn leads on another day,

the voice of prayer is never silent,

nor dies the strain of praise away.


The sun that bids us rest is waking

our brethren ‘neath the western sky,

and hour by hour fresh lips are making

Thy wondrous doings heard on high.


So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,

like earth’s proud empires, pass away;

Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,

till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

Words: John Ellerton (1826-1893)

Metre: 9898   Tune: Saint Clement

Until the time of the astronomer Copernicus (b.19.2.1473), the earth was assumed to be the centre of the universe. He proved that the earth revolved around the sun. This view undergirds Ellerton’s hymn.  Note its emphasis on God’s sovereign control of our time — morning and evening (vv1,5) and place … of continents and islands (v3). 

The Church is Universal, incessantly praising God v4.  The physical Day symbolises the 96-year span of Queen Elizabeth’s life, and the Night speaks of her decease — as controlled by the Almighty v1.  The extent of her reign spans ‘continents and islands’ like few other domains can claim v3.  As titular head of the Anglican Church, her spiritual influence was co-extensive v4, unlike the human pride of so many nations these days v5.  As remarkable as her earthly kingdom was, she recognised the superiority of God’s ever-expanding kingdom, and looked forward to the Day when “the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of Christ, who will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15) v5.

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