Remembrance Sunday 2017

I am repeating a post I wrote originally in 2015 because it says exactly what I would like to say and pray this morning.

poppies

Poppies by Giuseppe Moscato (www.flickr.com/photos/pinomoscato/)
Image source: Flickr. Used under Creative Commons licence

For people of a certain age or religious belief, Remembrance Sunday is uncomplicated. We pray for the dead and ask God to change our hearts and minds so that war is done away with altogether. Our prayer may be tinged with memories of family members looking out of black and white photographs into a future they were destined never to know, or seared by remembrance of the terrible wounds of mind and body borne even now by those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it is essentially unsentimental, unarguable. People fought; they died; we remember, and we pray. We are grateful for the sacrifices that made our freedoms possible, but we don’t want them repeated. We want a world at peace.

But what if we haven’t grown up with those photographs — if we have swallowed wholesale the revisionist histories or political ideologies that confuse ends and means  and make us uncertain, troubled? What if we have no faith that looks through death? Then, I think, we are left with little more than vague sentiment, regret and fear. Millions of deaths, whether as combatants or civilians, are hard to get our minds round. The more we know about the conduct of this war or that and the political shenanigans that accompanied them, the further away we are from any sense of personal connectedness, the less easy it is to accept the simple view of history. We walk hesitantly where our forebears strode confidently. And if we have no faith, the poppies and the bugle calls bring no peace, no certainty that ultimately sin and failure are redeemed, only regret and an unfathomable bleakness of mind and spirit. We are in the wilderness again.

This morning many of us will have our own private memories of war and the grief that war brings, but even if we don’t, this national act of remembrance is one in which we can take part with integrity and purposefulness. During the two minutes’ silence let us pray not only for the fallen and the wounded, for forgiveness and healing, but also for understanding. Just as peace begins within, so does war. The conflicts of the twenty-first century look like being very different from those of the twentieth, but the toll they will exact in terms of human suffering and death will be the same. Unless we are prepared to make the effort to understand others, we can be sure we will have to pay the price. ‘Peace has her victories no less than war,’ we are told. Indeed, and the greatest of these is to make war impossible. Let us remember that, too.

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7 thoughts on “Remembrance Sunday 2017

  1. Dear Sister Catherine,
    Thank you for this powerful message. The Lord came in peace and love to save us all from suffering. His message is even more relevant today. Love your neighbour as yourself means no more war.

  2. I spent last week in Germany, with colleagues from across europe, sharing progress on an EU funded research collaboration. Naturally Brexit and the implications on our work came up. This led onto wider European politics. The issues in Spain. The concerns I mostly heard from my Italian colleagues were related o the rose of the far right in Italy (although such parties are, apparently, constitionally banned). I didn’t know that was currently an issue. My German colleague was forced to conclude that we seem to no longer value peace in Europe as much as we should. Sad thoughts for me to face over dinner, diring the week we commemorate remembrance.

      • I think Germans on the whole do deeply value peace themselves. It’s the Others! I live in Bavaria and am conscious of the efforts made to find compromises wherever there is a disagreement. This doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is solved but people rub along, accepting that there will always be the need to give and take. My friends here are frankly horrified by Mr Trump et al. In contrast, there were great ecumenical festivities to commemorate the 95Theses a couple of weeks ago, including an extra Bank Holiday. Fair’s fair! We got All Saints anyway.

        • Touri, who is of French extraction, Swedish by birth and British by adoption, says he is going to use your excuse ‘It’s the others!’ the next time he is taken to task for growling at other male dogs. 🙂

          • Quinny, Chinese in ancestry, German by birth and also British by adoption doesn’t do excuses under those circumstances, he just is in the right!

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