Friday, 15 December 2017

Remember them for the ultimate sacrifice

THIS coming weekend is one of the most powerful and poignant of the year, encompassing both the Royal British Legion

THIS coming weekend is one of the most powerful and poignant of the year, encompassing both the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance and Remembrance Sunday.

My first recollection of the Festival of Remembrance was as a child, aged five or six, being allowed to stay up late and watch it on a small black and white television. I was enthralled by the agility, skill and daring of young men and women as they entertained everyone at the Royal Albert Hall.

But then it all changed and I watched poppies fall upon the heads and faces of those self-same young people and my parents explained its solemn significance. It made a profound impact upon me as a child — I started to realise that the freedoms I enjoyed were all made possible by the ultimate sacrifice made by so many.

But for me, and maybe you as well, it has come to mean much more than political and social freedom.

There’s a spiritual dimension that underlies Remembrance Sunday, which is perhaps best captured in the biblical quotation, which you will find on many a cenotaph in any part of the world: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We connect our remembrance of the fallen with the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our remembrance is shaped by the Cross, by the prayer of forgiveness of the Son to the Father for us all and, precisely, in the awareness of our limitations and our sinfulness. It heightens the necessity of our remembering and makes us ask, yet again, whether we are worthy of such sacrifices.

To remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives and, more importantly, to remember the sacrifice of Christ to which theirs is joined, is to be reminded that there are things worth dying for and that our life and living is ultimately shaped by their death.

Crucially, remembering is the profound and necessary counter to the moral crisis we currently find ourselves in, as so vividly portrayed in the news stories of the day — “Plebgate”, the News of the World phone hacking trial and currency exchange market rigging to name but three this past week — things which are not worth dying for because they are not worth living for.

As we remember the fallen by stopping and being silent and through simple symbolic gestures — wearing a poppy, listening to the bugle calls, standing by a cenotaph — the sacrifices that we remember make sense within sacrifice of Christ for all humankind. There can be no greater remembering.

Whatever your plans for this weekend, I hope and pray that you will find time to slow down, stop, remember and give thanks.

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