“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”
Pope Benedict XV
(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News, January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)
War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.
Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…
And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…
As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.
Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….
Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…
That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.
“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
Interestingly, our nation was saved by not honoring a tradition of ceasing action on Christmas Day when Washington crossed the Delaware River in the dead of night to cease Trenton from the British.
The ebbs and flow of conflict 🙂
I guess what amazed me about this particular story was that men could suddenly stop the fighting and the killing in order to show goodwill and kindness to the very people they were just prior trying to destroy—Lordy
I tried to reply either with a similar slant, but I was having problems with my smartphone. Great minds thing alike.
Is there no end to our great minds thinking alike. One of my posts today deals with this same subject. A friend of mine actually was there on that silent night. He still gets choked up when he tells the story. Merry Christmas, my very constant friend. Your words never cease to inspire. God’s blessing to you and yours and may He give you a peaceful new year.
That is such a moving story and continues to make you appreciate the good in men even when they must face each other in battle. Wishing this world peace.
Thanks Karen—when I read it, I also thought it to be a moving story…a good reminder that once upon a time, even in war, we held on to chivalry, hope and brotherhood of mankind…a needed reminder for the generations of today…
So very true.
Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.
and to you as well my friend —thank you for the abundant blessings this year
What an amazing moment in history! It should definitely give all of us a glimmer of hope in a world seemingly spinning chaotically out of control. May the Christ child enter into the hearts of all men our spheres reach through the words we speak! Love and hugs and merry CHRISTmas my friend❣️😘🎄🎄🎄
In my opinion that was probably the second most amazing Christmas after Christ’s Incarnation…