Friday, 11 November 2011

Requiescant in Pace

November 11 is still marked as a national holiday in France, and so I find myself at home in London, having a poppy on my shopping list (they are unknown and hence unpurchasable in France).  That the French still have a national holiday and that we will have, in many places, a two minutes silence today and also a national ceremony this Sunday, shows that there is still, in our consciousness, a deep awareness of the significance of what sacrifices have been made in our name.  Yes, there may be the odd silly and unpleasant incident reported in the Daily Mail, where foolish students flying high on drink or drugs, on the spur of the moment, desecrate a memorial: but even they, in moments of cool sobriety, have some awareness of the sacrifice that others have made for them.

There may now be no World War I veterans left to act as a living link to those who gave their lives, but the importance of the National Act of Remembrance is undiminished, not least because we have seen so many other wars since the "War to end all Wars", that those who fought in World War II, Korea, The Falklands, the First Gulf War, and even in today's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, remind us of the debt that we as a civil society owe.

One can only hope and pray that the protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral, whose very freedom to act in the way they now act stems from those who gave their lives for their country, will not disrupt any of the commemorations to be held at St Paul's. 

From a religious perspective too, we have a duty today.  We must give thanks for all those who gave their lives, for those who have come home injured mentally or physically, and for those who still today risk everything for others.  Some may not agree with the cause of each individual war or battle, but it is surely beyond doubt that the soldiers, sailors and airmen involved are doing their duty, and doing so at enormous risk to themselves.  We must also ask for those who mourn lost family and friends to be comforted.  We must contribute in almsgiving, perhaps through the simple gesture of buying a poppy, to support those who support those in need.  We must pray for the military chaplains, who provide comfort, support, prayer and the sacraments to the forces.

Most of all though, we must offer prayers for the repose of the souls of all who have given their lives in war. 

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.

Fr Ray Blake shared this photo on his blog recently (a link to his blog can be found on the right hand sidebar of this blog).  It shows Mass being celebrated in 1946 in St Paul's Cathedral, Munster. 

We pray for all victims of war, of all nationalities, those who died in war, and those whose lives were changed by war, whether through bereavement or upheaval. 

Instead of the usual Faure or Durufle, or even Victoria or Lobo, here is the Introit from the Requiem Mass set by Esteban Salas y Castro, an eighteenth century Cuban priest, teacher and composer.  To me, it seems a little less sombre than many a setting of the Requiem Mass, something which does not seem entirely inappropriate, given that a Requiem Mass is not solely an occasion for grief, but also and much more so an occasion for prayer for the departed and for joyful hope in the life of the world to come.

Requiescant in pace.

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