Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering Tomorrow

Today is Armistice Day, one of a number of opportunities to do something vitally important to preserving a hopeful tomorrow - remembering yesterday.

This is one of the days when I hope that the entire blogosphere will write about the same thing, because to me, this is so important. 

Anamnesis, that whole notion of memory, is one of the fundamental heartbeats of sacramental Christianity. It is that moment, during the Prayer of Consecration when we remember the great act of sacrifice made by Jesus Christ for us. Christian Anamnesis shares much with the Jewish notion of Yad Vashem, and is placed before us in our thoughts today, and this week. 

Remembering, that means by which we re-assemble [re-member] something from our past is perhaps the best way of learning how to live in the future. Today, of course, we remember a specific historical event, that being the end of the Great War in 1918. Sunday sees the broader Remembrance Sunday, when we are called as a nation, to re-member those young men and women whose lives were taken from them in the worst of circumstances, and for a cause not of their choosing. Last week, we had the spiritual component to all of this when we remembered the faithful departed on All Souls Day. 

I once heard it said that all this remembering should reach a natural conclusion and that we should perhaps draw an end to the practice. It was suggested that we should do that when the last survivor of the Second World War succumbs to death. It is easy to forget that our "war dead" is a community that almost daily increases. Last Sunday, among the list of those who had died in our community, I read out the considerable list of more young men and women who have died for their country during 2011. A new name has been added even since Sunday. 

The simple fact behind all of this is that the names we remember are those who did not choose death. They did not choose war. They just agreed to serve. Added to the list of our war heroes, we must also remember the people who died away from the front-line - those at home bombed in their beds, the countless millions of the Shoah genocide (Jews, Roma, Jehovah Witnesses, those with learning difficulties and physical disablements and so many others), those who died servicing the machines of war, those who patrolled our streets at home, those women who died in the factories that supplied the front-line, those who died of war-related symptoms many years after the ceasefire, family members who died of heartbreak in the wake of losing their life's love - countless myriad millions of people who did not choose death. 

Half of today is about remembering those who died on our behalf. They died for you. They died for me. They died for our children. The other half is to remember tomorrow - that fateful day when we can stop choosing war over compassion and generosity, when we give instead of take, when we can dream of waking  to a day where no-one will die violently at the hands of another human being. 

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

When you go home tell them of us, and say for your tomorrow we gave our today


  1. Every word of it true, yet still only half the story. Let us also remember all those who died in the camps in Germany, Poland and Burma.
    Still not the whole story. The terrible death-toll as a result of the Nuclear Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki wiped out countless thousands.
    War is not glorious, it is an evil necessity, a last resort and there are no winners.

  2. You are right - it is a list that is endless ... thanks for adding to it!

  3. You are the first person who I have seen write about those not directly on the front line that were killed - or whose lives were damaged for ever, every soldier had a family.

  4. A plea to remember too those men and women who were - and too often still are - considered enemies. The vast majority of them suffered and died in conflicts that they did not want to be part of, any more than our won war-dead did.

  5. David, I so agree with you that we should remember all who are casualties of war, military and civilian and on whichever side. My grandfather lost his younger brother and a great deal of his own hearing in WW1, both of which losses coloured his life forever.

  6. You're so right about the need to be united in remembering and in looking forward with hope.



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