Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

It wasn't all that long ago, when I was growing up in the 1970s (a rather grim era in Britain, when, in Private Eye's terminology, the 'Dave Spart' tendency seemed to hold sway in the State rather than, as today, just in parts of the Church) that we were assured that Remembrance Day would soon be a thing of the past, it had nothing to say to the coming generation and merely encouraged a wallowing in our imperial past. It glorified war, they said, forgetting that it has something vital to say about the preservation of our ancient freedoms. Some people were still saying that sort of thing in the mid-1980s when I was ordained. How times have changed!
In our country parish at the Mass offered today for the fallen in war, we were joined by the last surviving parishioner who fought (with the Parachute Regiment) in the Second World War. Three miles away the civic Remembrance Service included a parade by soldiers of 1st Rifles, some of whose comrades are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Whatever the rights and wrongs of our involvement in the wars waged by and on behalf of 'liberal democracy,' it now appears to be beyond doubt that any scepticism about the observance of Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day has disappeared. It’s now part of our experience, too. The victims of war are not people from a rapidly receding past: they are among us, they are our neighbours and friends, they are members of the regiment stationed down the road.
At the altar all our memories, all our sufferings, all our gratitude, all our hopes for the future come together in the offering of the sacrifice of Calvary. This is the greatest act of remembrance and of Christian charity that we can perform both for those who have died, and for ourselves, here only because they were prepared to lay down their lives for the people most dear to them.

Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them


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