A reflection by Christina Brennan Lee on 11 November, 2022.
One hundred four years ago on this date, World War I officially ended with an armistice.
This armistice was an agreement to cease fighting, after four years of horrific warring. For awhile, November 11 was known as Armistice Day.
This country now commemorates all US Veterans of military service from all wars, and calls the day Veterans Day. Obviously, few people are alive now who remember the armistice that ended World War I but in history it is remembered as high on the list of the deadliest conflicts ever. Fighting took place all across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific, and parts of Asia. Although not fought in our country, about 4 million US Military as well as men and women civilian volunteers were involved.
It is estimated that between 9 and 11 million military personnel of the world were killed. That’s about the population of Delaware and New Jersey combined. Up to 13 million civilians were killed. That’s nearly the entire population of Pennsylvania. There were about 23 million military personnel wounded. That’s the population of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined. World War I in its day was known as “The War to End All Wars.” And yet, it was not. Take a moment to reflect and imagine all of the people in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania dead; all of the people in another four US states seriously or critically wounded.
Something that happened over a hundred years ago can seem irrelevant in our own time.
We mark this date because we are called to stop and think and remember those who gave their lives then, who gave their lives since then, and who are giving their lives now. We are asked to remember their loved ones — parents, spouses, and children who have lost an important person in their lives.
Why is it important? If we cannot imagine the people of those fairly recent times, how then can we relate to the person of Jesus, and his disciples in their time facing the brutality of martyrdom yet continuing to move forward with the courage and fortitude from faith in Christ?
We mark November 11 as more than a holiday, a word that stems from holy day, as important to the collective memory of humanity, to learn from again and again. Even more significant, we are to mark Christmas as a truly holy commemoration well beyond mere decorations and gifts, and Easter as the signature of Christ and Christianity, not just candy in colorful baskets.
As we move ahead in the calendar, next up is our Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a time set aside to remember, to cherish our families and friends, and to give thanks intentionally and consciously in prayer for the blessings of this life, far outside the scope of food and football.
We are also called to add regularly to the blessings of others by our gifts to help those less fortunate, as well as gifts of time, talent, and monetary treasure to our parish.
Most importantly, this season of remembering is to strengthen our own faith in Jesus our Christ, our Messiah, our Redeemer, who has welcomed the souls of all our faithful departed from the extraordinary of global wars and the ordinary difficulties and joys of day-to-day life.
Jesus welcomes us, the living, in every moment of every day and asks only that we follow Him in our thoughts, words, and actions. In the Greatest Commandment Jesus exhorts us to love God with all our hearts, all our souls and all our minds, and love our neighbors — the ones we like and the ones we do not like — as if they are ourselves.
We all fail in so many ways, through wars within ourselves and with each other yet we can come back to Jesus, time and time and time again to ask forgiveness and Jesus will never fail us.
From The Book of Common Prayer, page 823:
25. For those in the Armed Forces of our Country
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Every week, Christina Brennan Lee writes the Prayers of the People we use in our worship services on Sundays. She also leads weekday prayer services and serves on the SsAM Vestry. Click here to see her People’s Prayers website.