Monday, 27 January 2014

27th January

Today is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. However we chose to mark it,  we could do worse than reflect on words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to Auschwitz in 2006:
"....All these inscriptions speak of human grief, they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that regime which treated men and women as material objects, and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God.  Some inscriptions are pointed reminders.  There is one in Hebrew.  The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth.  Thus the words of the Psalm: “We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter” were fulfilled in a terrifying way.  Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid.  If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone - to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world.  By destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful...

 ".....Yes, behind these inscriptions is hidden the fate of countless human beings.  They jar our memory, they touch our hearts.  They have no desire to instil hatred in us: instead, they show us the terrifying effect of hatred.  Their desire is to help our reason to see evil as evil and to reject it; their desire is to enkindle in us the courage to do good and to resist evil.  They want to make us feel the sentiments expressed in the words that Sophocles placed on the lips of Antigone, as she contemplated the horror all around her: my nature is not to join in hate but to join in love ..."
The full text is here: we should take it all to heart

A French video displaying the names of children deported to the death camps uses the opening movement of Henryk Gorecki's Third Symphony (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych - Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) 

So today (as well as being the old feast day of St John Chrysostom and, appropriately, given one of my names, my birthday) is now observed as Holocaust Memorial Day. The Church in Wales lectionary tells me so in no uncertain terms. 
To digress for a moment: however valuable these special international days of observation may or may not be, I'm not sure it's really the business of a lectionary to inform me of them - there are other sources of information if we need a little guidance for our personal or our liturgical prayers ...  

And alas for my own poor part of the Church, becoming so accommodating to the zeitgeist that (in the words put into the mouth of Thomas More by Robert Bolt in The Man for All Seasons) it gives the impression that it couldn't answer for itself 'even as far as tonight.' 
In itself,  this unthinking habit of secularisation from within - even in seemingly harmless or even 'humanitarian' ways - should be reason enough to terrify us: on what ground will we be able to stand when the next great crisis for humanity comes along ..... as it undoubtedly will? These catastrophes never come in the same way, but their inspiration is always from the same source ...

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