And so this is Christmas…

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

And so this is Christmas
John Lennon

The WWI Christmas Truce
December 17, 2019 by Jenny Ashcraft
On December 24-25, 1914, an impromptu cease-fire occurred along the Western Front during WWI.
Amid the battle, soldiers from both sides set aside their weapons and came together peacefully
in an event that has come to be known as the WWI Christmas Truce.
Here are a few first-hand accounts of that historic event.

British and German Officers Meet in (No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce Courtesy of Imperial War Museums)

British and German Officers Meet in No-Man’s Land During WWI Christmas Truce
Courtesy of Imperial War Museums
The Canadian Expeditionary Forces 24th Battalion recorded their experience.
“Early in the afternoon shelling and rifle fire ceased completely and soon
German soldiers were seen lifting heads and shoulders cautiously over the parapet
of their front line trench. Encouraged by the fact that no fire was opened by the men
of the 24th, a number of Germans climbed over the top, advanced in
No Man’s Land, and, making signs of friendship, invited the Canadians to join them
and celebrate the occasion. Regulations frowned on such action, but curiosity proved strong,
and a group of Canadians, including a number from the 24th Battalion, moved out
to see what the enemy looked like at close range. Conversation proved difficult at first,
but a number of the Germans spoke English fluently and others, having rehearsed
for the occasion, one must judge, endeavored to establish their benevolence by
constant repetition of the phrase, “Kaiser no damn good.” For nearly an hour the
unofficial peace was prolonged, the Canadians presenting the Germans with cigarettes
and foodstuffs and receiving in return buttons, badges, and several bottles of
most excellent beer.
By this time, news of the event had reached authority, and peremptory orders were issued
to the Canadians in No Man’s Land to return to their own line forthwith.
When all had reported back, a salvo of artillery fire,
aimed carefully to burst at a spot where no harm to friend or foe would result,
warned the Germans that the truce was over and that hostilities had been
resumed…For some days after Christmas comparative quiet prevailed in the front line,
but soon activity increased and the Battalion’s losses indicated that
normal trench warfare conditions again existed.”
Captain Hugh Taylor from the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards led his company in an attack
near Rouges Bancs on December 18-19, 1914. His troops succeeded in pushing back
German soldiers and occupying their trenches. While returning alone to the
British trenches to report, Taylor was caught in machine-gun fire and killed instantly.
For nearly a week, his body lay near the German line. During the informal Christmas Truce,
soldiers from both sides collected the dead and brought their bodies to the center
space between their respective lines. They dug two trenches and buried
British soldiers in one and German soldiers in the other.
An English Chaplain conducted a service. Afterward, the soldiers spent several hours
fraternizing with one another. Captain Taylor’s body was carried to a small military
graveyard at La Cardoniere Farm and buried.


(British and German troops bury soldiers during the WWI Christmas Truce – 1914
Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

Three Americans serving in the Foreign Legion took part in the Christmas Truce.
Victor Chapman, Eugene Jacobs, and Phil Rader were in the trenches that day.
Rader, a former United Press correspondent, wrote a stirring account of his experience.
“For twenty days we had faced that strip of land, forty-five feet wide,
between our trench and that of the Germans, that terrible No-Man’s Land,
dotted with dead bodies, criss-crossed by tangled masses of barbed wire.”
Rader recounted cautiously raising his head. “Other men did the same.
We saw hundreds of German heads appearing. Shouts filled the air.
What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered.
There was Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine.
There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where in days before there had been only rifle barrels.
The terror of No-Man’s Land fell away.
The sounds of happy voices filled the air.”
The Christmas Truce of 1914 eventually ended, and the goodwill shared between enemies
for a brief moment during WWI evaporated as fighting resumed.

(To learn more about WWI and the soldiers who fought in it, search Fold3 today!)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let’s stop all the fight
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now
la, la, ah, ah
Happy Christmas
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)
Happy Christmas (happy Christmas)

(John Lennon)

May we all remember…

“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.”

Laurence Binyon, For The Fallen

“All we have of freedom, all we use or know –
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.”

Rudyard Kipling


(BBC)


(News.com.au)

I know what you’ll say.
I know you’ll shake your head.
I know your pride will cloud your agreement.
You’ll disagree…
You’ll say I’m wrong…
Or you’ll simply be dismissive…subjecting me to a land of ignorance and deplorables.

But never the less… there are just some things that I believe our cousins from across
the pond get right…so much more so then we do ourselves.

And one of those things is the pausing of the day in order to remember…

A Queen, clad in black, sporting the tri bloom of the red poppy.
A stalwart and determined 93-year-old monarch flanked by wreaths of red poppies.
A usually stiff upper lipped emotionless woman who stops to wipe away a single tear.
All because she remembers.

She remembers.

But the question is, do we?

Perhaps she remembers more clearly because she has lived on the soil where
wars have been fought.
Or that her family has borne the brunt of carrying an ancient Nation during those wars.

Our soil has, on the other hand, been spared.
Other than our own war of division and now a new odd war of terror, our land has remained
basically untainted by world wars.

However, we cannot say the same about our people.

We have sent countless numbers of young men and young women toward the sound of gunfire rather
then holding them tightly in our arms, safely back home.

Some of them returned, some did not.
Some returned…different.

For those who did and have returned, they have done so changed…
both physically as well as emotionally.
And as long as humans have wars…this sad reality will continue.


(Dailymail)


(US wounded at Omaha Beach / US Army file)


(image courtesy American Grit)

Remembrance Day
Armistice Day
Veteran’s Day

Call it what you will.

It is a specified day in November, always the 11th, in which the British Commonwealth,
Canada, the European Nations, Australia, New Zealand, The US…
each pause to mark the recalling of the sacrifices made…
sacrifices that were readily and freely offered so that our collective nations might remain free.

Originally it was a day to mark the end of WWI—it was on the 11th hour of the 11th day
of the 11th month that the war ended when the Germans signed the Treaty of Versailles.

Sadly and most ominously little did the world know then that that treaty would actually usher
in a new and even larger horror—only to follow suit not long after…
A more terrible horror than the first…

And so thus the UK, who marked Remembrance Day yesterday on Sunday with the laying of
poppy clad wreaths on tombs, monuments, and graves, now remember two world wars.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments during yesterday’s ceremony in London was when
the Queen’s wreaths were placed on the Cenotaph.

The Cenotaph is an empty tomb and monument in London that is a physical and tangible reminder that
not all soldiers come home…as many physical remains still lie elsewhere…
on foreign soil, long forgotten.
Buried or merely lost to the decay of time.


(The Telegraph)

And so we Americans will pause today, on this Monday, November the 11th, to offer our
own remembrance.
Banks and the Postal services will be closed.
Some schools and businesses will close.
Some communities will have parades.
As a president lays a wreath in Arlington at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


(courtesy Conservative Daily News)

But I fear that this nation of ours will not unite in its remembrance.
It will rather remain divided.

Say what they will about their monarchy, seeing their Queen shed tears during her public
remembrance of those who gave their all will draw the British closer, not further apart.

Our Nation will continue to throw caustic jabs at her President.
Her governmental leadership will continue insulting and publically hating one another.
Some in leadership will continue to cry out, hoping to drown out the somber markings
with their own shouts for socialism and that of antisemitism and progressive liberalism…
All of which are the makings of the unforgiving black hole that only aids to usher in the very
thing we now pause to remember…
that of broken nations, wars and eventual loss.

Her people will continue attacking one another over perceived political wrongs.
There will be little in the way of a national coming together in order to remember.
The bias will be heard and seen throughout the newsfeeds.

And so yes, I believe the United Kingdom, who has her own wealth of woe, as Brexit comes to mind,
does a far better job standing united in order to recall and to remember those that
they have loved and lost.

There are a few lessons this proud nation of ours still needs to learn…
A humbling remembering is one of them…

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by Major John McCrae, May 1915

apostello

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him,
but because he loves what is behind him.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the Mayor offers her blessings to St Francis / Julie Cook / 2019)

According to Wikipedia, the word apostolate means:
An apostolate is a Christian organization “directed to serving and evangelizing the world”,
most often associated with the Anglican Communion or the Catholic Church. …
The word apostolate comes from the Greek word apostello,
which means to “send forth” or “to dispatch”.

And isn’t that pretty much a summation of what is known as the Great Commission within
the Christian faith?

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

So I recently read about an interesting little book that’s really not very new…the copyright
date is 1946.
It is the book that was on the bedside table of Pope Pius X…
and so intrigued as to what a pope found to be essential to the Faith,
I naturally thought I too needed to have my own copy.

And whereas this book was written by a Catholic Monk who was born in 1858 and died in 1935,
the words offered are eerily very current and timely…
Or perhaps there’s nothing eery about it at all because such words are more or less timeless.

Not overly familiar with the political history of France during the era of her Prime Minister
Georges Eugène Benjamin Clemenceau, I did not realize that he was very much an enemy of
the Catholic Chruch as well as an active anti-semite.

He considered himself to be a Radical Socialist.
He had no use for religion– that being not only The Catholic Chruch, but any church, as he was an avowed and very vocal atheist.
His feelings about the Jews were equally as venomous.

At one point, he mounted an all-out crackdown on the Catholic Chruch.

Some called it an outright persecution.

Yet French History is not totally unflattering of Clemenceau as he did lead France
strongly when she most needed strong leadership during the throes of WWI.
He even survived an assassination attempt by an anarchist during the midst
of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1901 when Clemenceau was speaking very vocally against the Chruch and vowed
to close down as many of the monasteries and various Church Orders that he could,
a certain Catholic Cistercian monk was nominated to meet personally with the president
in order to ‘defend the faith.’

The unsympathetic atheist president admitted that he found this particular monk to be sincere,
fearless and of high integrity.
Clemenceau spared the monk’s Order but other Orders were not so fortunate.

The monk was Jean-Baptiste Chautard.

This particular monk was himself, not always one who was of religious thinking.
He had actually attended college to study economics and finance—
religion was far removed from his radar.

Chautard began attending a study group for Catholic students…an organization that would
be instrumental in his “conversion”—
a conversion from being Catholic in name only to that of practicing devout Chrisitan Catholic.

He later noted that this religious organization was…
“more than a tame and sheepish attempt to rival the attractions of the dance hall and the
cafe by vainly trying to beat them at their own game of pleasing and entertaining human nature.
There was something more, something that appealed to a much deeper and more urgent and more
vital necessity: faith, supernatural charity,
a deep and simple and unbreakable solidarity among souls united, as he was to discover, in Christ.
And he began to taste “that peace which the world cannot give.”

I am reminded of the recent posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the frivolity of various
Anglican churches and their sad attempts of drawing in attendants by offering putt-putt golf
down the center aisle of the sanctuary or placing a Helter Skelter amusement ride in close proximity
to the altar.
A feeble attempt hoping to draw in and amuse the masses rather than “feed” their souls.

Dom Chautard story continues…

In the persecution of the Chruch in France, under Clemenceau, in the early days of the century,
Dom Chautard’s keen eye had discovered a glaring inconsistency in the reaction of a certain
type of Catholic leader.
He observed that some priests, some organizers of Catholic Action,
imagined that they could fight political enemies with more or less worldly and politically weapons,

Oh how this sounds like our sad state of affairs today.
The now misguided global Christian Chruch, not merely the Catholic faith, wrestling with and fighting
her political enemies with worldly weapons rather than with her true spiritual armor.

In defending the Chruch against state persecution,
they thought the most important thing was to gain and preserve political and social power,
they believed that these gains could best be consolidated by a great material expansion.
They expended all their efforts in running newspapers, holding conventions,
publishing pamphlets and magazines, and above all,
they measured the growth of Catholic life by the number of new school buildings,
new Church buildings, new hospital buildings, new orphanages, new social centers.
…As if the Church of God were built exclusively of bricks and mortar!

Such apostles tended to congratulate themselves when they had raised large sums of money,
or when their Churches were filled with great throngs of people,
without reference to what might be going on in the souls of all those who were present
It (the Church) is built of saints.
And saints are made only by the grace of God and the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost,
not by speeches and publicity and campaigns, which are all dommed to sterility without the
essential means of Prayer and mortification.

…the only remedy was a return to the fundamentals of Christian Doctrine in
all the power and beauty of their traditional presentation.

excerpts from The Soul of the Apostolate
Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.

We’ve been hearing so much as of late, have we not, about those spiritual comets that were
once so bright… blazing comets that have all but quickly burned out as they so publicly
denounce their once staunch faith.

We’ve been reading so much about churches that are prostituting themselves all in the name of numbers
and that of the feel-good religion of a progressive post-Christian church.

We find ourselves in a bit of a panic as we think that we are undergoing some new
and strange predicament…but in reality, our predicament is nearly as old as time itself.

So yes, the only remedy, the only solution, is that we return to the fundamentals of our
Christine doctrine.

We are called to dispatch the Word.
It would behoove us to be mindful that our time is running out…

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness
to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14

Remembrance Days

So why do we celebrate ‘Remembrance’ Sunday?
We don’t.
We mourn.
We remember those who died in senseless slaughter.
We remember those who fought for our freedom, but we do not celebrate war.

David Roberston


(U.S. World War I veteran Joseph Ambrose attends the dedication parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.)
Wikipedia

On November 11th, each year since 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson first addressed
a mourning yet grateful nation recalling the sacrifices made and the countless numbers of
lives lost during World War I…
November 11th has become the day that we as a nation officially recognize our military personnel.

It was in 1926 that Congress voted to permanently and officially mark November 11th as a
national day of remembrance and recognition.
A national day we permanently set aside in order to pay tribute to our Veterans and
military personnel both former and current.

A day to mourn, a day to remember and a day of gratitude.

It is also the day that coincides with the marking of what our European kinsmen
observe as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.

It is the day that will forever mark the ending of World War I.

Marked so because it was on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in 1918
that the War officially ended.

World War I was a war that caused 40 million deaths of both military members and civilians…
leaving behind some 23 million people wounded.
Wounds that we now know, that for many, never healed as the scars remained both visible
as well as hidden and internal for years to come.

World War I was the war that was hailed as being the war to end all wars…
And yet it would only be a short decade later that the world would come together
again in open hostilities.

Our nation officially changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s day in 1954.

And so as our Scottish friend The Wee Flea, David Roberston, so aptly reminds us…
this 11th day of this the 11th month, we gather together as free nations to recall
the sacrifices made for our freedoms by generations who went before us.
We do not celebrate, but rather we remember and we mourn.
We mourn the lives taken far too soon.

David goes on…
“It is also fitting to remember our history.
In a postmodern, dumbed-down, self-absorbed culture such as ours,
we both forget our history and we far too often end up believing a fake historical narrative –
one that just happens to suit our current feelings and views.
Cambridge University students,
supposedly the elite of our educational system,
recently voted not to support the wearing of poppies and Remembrance Day,
because they ‘glorified war’.

There are many things that glorify war,
but remembering the Fallen in previous wars is not one of those things.
Nor is it wrong to particularly remember the dead from your own country –
they, after all, are the ones who died so that we can have the freedom we have today.”

So on this day, the 11th day of this 11th month,
may we mark this day with grateful hearts…
remembering those who have sacrificed so very much for each of us…no matter our
beliefs, our color, our politics or our status in life…we are free…
this much we know.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

-Psalm 46:8-10 NIV

We Shall Remember Them – December Record Editorial

Warfare

“It is Satan’s constant effort to misrepresent the character of God, the nature of sin,
and the real issues at stake in the great controversy.
His sophistry lessens the obligation of the divine law and gives men license to sin.
At the same time he causes them to cherish false conceptions of God so that they regard Him
with fear and hate rather than with love.
The cruelty inherent in his own character is attributed to the Creator;
it is embodied in systems of religion and expressed in modes of worship.”

Ellen G. White


(image of a replica of a plane similar to the Red Baron’s / The History Channel)

“To KILL and kill and kill was the cry.
To burn, to destroy, to devastate, to lay waste.
Men heard the madness and knew it for madness and embraced it,
some with fear and some with joy.
Kill or be killed.
Survive or perish.”

And so opens the 1927 book The Red Knight Of Germany:
The Story of Baron von Richthofen
by Floyd Gibbons.

Today, the Baron is known to most of us simply as the Red Baron.
The famous, or perhaps infamous, WWI German flying ace.

The Red Baron was the name applied to Manfred von Richthofen,
a German fighter pilot who was the deadliest flying ace of World War I.
During a 19-month period between 1916 and 1918,
the Prussian aristocrat shot down 80 Allied aircraft and won widespread fame for
his scarlet-colored airplanes and ruthlessly effective flying style.
Richthofen’s legend only grew after he took command of a German fighter wing known
as the Flying Circus, but his career in the cockpit was cut short in April 1918,
when he was killed in a dogfight over France.

The History Channel

I had been dusting when I noticed the stack of books I’d brought back from Dad’s almost
a year ago.
The tattered and yellow-paged red cardboard backed book seemed to beckon that I pick it up.

There was no mistaking the black imprinted iron cross on the cover.

The first paragraph was definitely an attention-grabbing opener.

I think I will now read the book…

For it speaks of soldiers and war.
It speaks of heroes and death.
as it speaks of victory and loss.

All sad, all fleeting, all madness when the luster fades and the lights run into the shadows.

Our hindsight now gently affords us that bit of understanding.

It is all madness was it not?
Is it not?

Yet the dogfights of those early days of war, being fought high up in the clouds, has
romanticized itself into something almost mystical…

And so it is with this notion of war and of the idea of fighting for what one believes in
which brings my thoughts around to another sort of warfare that is currently being waged
all around us..which is unbeknownst to most.

I caught a brief, 2 minute long, interview yesterday with our friend the Wee Flea
David Robertson.
David is currently on Sabbatical in the land down under but that has in no way quieted his
witness nor his words written or spoken on behalf of the Faith and Faithful.

This short interview David provides for the Forum of Chrisitan Leaders
entitled “How should we use the means of Grace in Evangelism”, touches
on the notion of seeing Jesus in action…
Of which is actually performed by both you and me.

Yet it is how we go about performing such that is key to our witness and earthly battle.
We need to be fed…
Fed by the Bible and by prayer because what we are doing actually boils down to
spiritual warfare.

Because where the word of Christ is proclaimed, Satan works desperately hard, waging war,
in order to silence that Word.

And so it’s the idea of Christians living solely for Jesus and not for self.
For when we allow self to get in the way or even intervene…then that is not Christ.

David touches on this notion of spiritual warfare and that it is the Holy Spirit who
convicts the sin and the righteousness and the judgment…
in order for our ability to go forward and do battle…
not us…
not us alone.

when righteousness perseveres

“Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God.
For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility,
righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?”

C.S. Lewis

“Righteousness acts never in its own interest,
but in the interest of fellow men.”

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

_93137447_58e1e3fe-46b3-4be9-8d86-0c9b82c5045f
(The Rev. Samuel Leighton Green)

Say what you will about battles, conflicts and wars…
…such that there is no such thing as a just war.

And that may very well be true…

For historians still question the necessity of such wars as WWI
yet concede to the fundamental importance and necessity of WWII.

Yet both wars were some of humankind’s bloodiest conflicts…
with each resulting in a catastrophically global loss of life.

While at the same time each war has helped to shape the world, for both good and bad,
as you and I know it today.

And as is the case with history…
importance becomes more real, more relevant and more personal when it is
picked apart and examined individually…
by each single person after person, after person…
for it is in the details of each participant that we begin to see things
more narrowly verses that of a generic and sweeping panoramic view of
the statistical and numerical.

The following link is to a story found on the BBC regarding
the Reverend Samuel Leighton Green.
Green was one of a special group of men who served during the brutal
trench warfare of WWI.

As a member of the clergy, he was exempt from the mandatory draft,
yet volunteered anyway as he knew someone would have to tend to those
“fighting lads” spiritual needs.

Green also felt a moralistic sense of justification to the war’s necessity.

He served with the “blasphemous and foul-mouthed” 1/4th (City of London)
Battalion–the Royal Fusiliers.

Green served alongside this brave group of men throughout the duration of the war.

Green was awarded the Military Cross not once but twice for his bravery under fire.

It would behoove us to uncover more of these stories of such selfless souls…
those brave men and women who remain a part of the “Constant” to which mankind so
clings during the chaotic…

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-37377025

Christmas 1914

“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

christmas-truce-wikicommons
(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.

History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley

Authority vs Power

“Another time of testing has come.
Another day of reckoning is here.
This is a testing and a reckoning…
that could prove even more decisive than earlier trials.”

Os Guinness

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(statue of St Peter stands looking over St Peter’s Square, The Vatican/ Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

“The Kingdom of God is the realm of true authority; the kingdom of Satan is seen in the tyranny of raw power.”
(God and Churchill/ Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley

In his 1931 essay, Fifty Years Hence, written long before Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, the then former Chancellor of the Exchequer penned his bleak yet precautionary predictions for the future of not only Western Civilization, but the world at large.

Churchill’s essay was written post WWI, while the destructive images of a devastated Europe raged fresh in his mind just as the rumors of new wars festered along the horizon….

“Without an equal growth of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, Science herself may destroy all that makes human life majestic and tolerable. There never was a time when the inherent virtue of human beings required more strong and confident expression in daily life; there never was a time when the hope of immortality and the disdain of earthly power and achievement were more necessary for the safety of the children of men.”

Churchill’s opining of predictions were but a stone cast into a pond whose ripples were to reach to what he saw to be 1981…
however his words and thoughts, those ripples, continue to be relevant to our own day and time these 85 years later…well past the initial envisioned fifty years.
In fact his words ring more true today than they did in 1981.

I think we’d all agree that our times are exceedingly precarious.
Many an observer notes the almost tangible and even palpable fear that is presently running as an electric current throughout the world.
Radical Islamic Extremists,
global terrorism,
coups,
civil wars,
our own racial divide and unrest…
all of which has rocked this 21st century world.

There are many, myself included, who can’t help but to see the mirrored comparisons of a rising Adolph Hitler and his Nazi death machine compared to today’s current menacing death machine of Islamic fanaticism and its declared war or caliphate against the West and the Judeao / Christian foundation…of which has stood since the days of Constantine…

“We are confronted with another theme. It is not a new theme;
it leaps out upon us from the Dark Ages–
racial persecution, religious intolerance, deprivation of free speech,
the conception of the citizen as a mere soulless fraction of the State.
To this has been added the cult of war.
Children are to be taught in their earliest schooling the delights and profits of conquest
and aggression.
A whole mighty community has been drawn painfully, by severe privations,
into a warlike frame.”

(except of speech broadcast to Britain and the United States October 16, 1938)

Reading these words, not knowing they were spoken 78 years ago, in a different time and place, one would imagine them to be easily written today…
If we listen carefully we hear the ominous warnings…
warnings concerning the madrassas of today with their radical teachings to the youth of Islam…
we hear of the ongoing global teachings of intolerance for Western society…
we hear of the hate for the Christian and Jewish communities throughout the world…
warnings and reminders being echoed of the soulless citizens having lived or who are currently living under the blankets of communism, totalitarianism, dictatorships and the growing rise of socialism….
anything but democracy….

It would behoove us, as we stand on the cusp of the dire decisions and votes being cast…
with their often ominous results–
not only on a national level, but to the choices, votes and decisions being made globally,
to understand the difference between what is true authority verses what is power merely cloaked in a false authoritative shawl.

Authority shows itself in constructive power, whereas raw power is inevitably destructive, as Hitler and the Nazis amply demonstrated. Authority is granted from the higher to the lower, but power is seized.
Authority is given to the humble, those under authority; power is snatched by the proud, who acknowledge no authority over themselves. Authority is sustained through relationship, which is why Churchill devoted so much time to communicating and to being among the people. Raw power, on the other hand, is sustained through four control mechanisms: manipulation, condemnation, intimidation, and domination, skills that Hitler and the Nazis honed to a sharp point”

(God and Churchill / Jonathan Sandys & Wallace Henley)

Again, words written regarding a past time yet even more relevant today…

May we open our ears to the past as we open our eyes to the future as we currently wrestle with seeking
new governing leadership…
May we be mindful to look to those individuals who seek not to grab power but rather to those who seek to lead under the authority that has been granted from the only One who can truly grant authority to those who seek His counsel for those who which they are charged to lead….

The whole world is upborne and sustained by God’s Love, and each person was created as an act of love. This is truly incomprehensible to us because we can’t see clearly the breath, and depth, and enormous scope of such great love. God looked at each stage of Creation and said clearly that it was good: the sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the earth, the animals, the birds, the fish, and the plants. All is good, all is blessed, and all is an outpouring of Trinitarian love. When we were created, then God said that this was more than good, but very good. Very good! When will we live up to such a great calling, to such a great love: personal, intense, and giving the power to also create around us an expression of God’s goodness and love. Help us, O Lord, to fulfill Thy precious love in us and in all we touch and see.
Amen.
(offering prayer from the monks at St Isaac’s Orthodox Skete)
(http://www.skete.com/index.cfm)

what do we learn

Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.
Mahatma Gandhi

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended –
civilizations are built up –
excellent institutions devised;
but each time something goes wrong.
Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top
and it all slides back into misery and ruin.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,
even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”

Henry Kissinger

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( WWI German soldiers, in gas masks, ready to throw a potato masher grenade at the French troops in the opposite trenches)

It is said that if left unchecked, the past is but doomed to repeat itself.

Learning from one’s mistakes is always the best teacher,
always providing the best sorts of lessons to be learned…that is,
as long as one actually learns.

It seems that human beings are simply hell bent on pushing that proverbial envelope.
Yet we are smart enough to push just far enough without plunging ourselves over the cliff into the great abyss of no return.

Our global relationships are fickle at best.
Allies, turned foes, turned allies, turned foes…
as the never ending merry go round runs around and around.
It just seems to be a part of our nature as trust and distrust dance a dangerous waltz.

Ever since that fateful day when brother killed brother,
the children of Adam have never been able to wash the blood of the innocents off of their hands.

Over this past weekend, we Americans marked Memorial Day.
A day set aside to honor our Military Personnel.
It was a day created following the Civil War, the bloodiest war fought on American soil—
the war that pitted brother against brother.

It was a day in which we told ourselves we would never forget the lives lost during the fighting and during the battles. A day set aside yearly to remind us of the sacrifices made as well as of those gallant ideals and principles that divided a Nation—
And we told ourselves that no matter the reasons nor the victors…it was to be a day we would pay tribute to the lives lost, on both sides…a day in which we would pay our respects…

As our time as a Nation has continued, we have continually found ourselves entangled in countless other clashes, conflicts and wars.
Each time as the dust settles and the bombs cease, this Nation is called upon to remember…

Yet with all our celebrations, our cookouts, our ballgames
and our quiet solemn observations over this past long weekend,
we probably failed to notice that there was another tribute taking place…

This “other” day of remembrance was held in Verdun, France.
A poignant ceremony was held to mark a long ago and now mostly forgotten battle.
A battle that is simply kept deep within the books of global conflicts.

It was known as The Battle of Verdun.

The tale of this battle is as black and monstrous as they come.
It was a battle that pitted modern day allies against one another, fighting until the very death.

The Battle of Verdun, fought throughout the entire year of 1916, is known as the longest battle waged. Deadly, frustrating, endless trench warfare.
It is a battle with some of the most staggering numbers of casutalites and fatalities for any single battle.
700,000 soldiers from both France and Germany were either killed, wounded or never found as the fighting wore on for eleven long months–
The battlefield covered not even 6 square miles of land.

As the fighting wore on, it no longer remained a strategically feasible fight but became a battle of nationalistic pride. Who could outlast the other…

During the course of fighting, 9 surrounding villages were destroyed as a nation’s landscape was forever altered. It is said that the villages died for France.
Historians note that the battle was eventually wrested from Germany,
giving France the bittersweet victory.

Two years later, in 1918, Germany was finally defeated, offically ending WWI…
Yet silently a stage was now set as a foreboding darkness sat ominously upon a not too distant horizon…as lessons would quickly be forgotten…

This past weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined France’s president, Francois Hollande, marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Verdun.
These once sworn enemies, on more than one occasion, came together on May 29, 2016 in solidarity, now as allies and friends, in order to remember what once was a very dark time in both their shared history.

Days such as Memorial Day, VE Day, VJ day, Decoration Day, Armistice Day, the 4th of July…specific days set aside yearly, or even those spontaneous moments, results of humanity’s gratitude…
serve to teach us…
they remind us of our past struggles and sacrifices as well as of our past differences…differences in ideologies and goals.
They teach us that the freedom to live and to do, a freedom we often take for granted, more often than not comes at a tremendous cost…a cost, that as a generation passes, is likely to be quickly forgotten.
These days serve to teach the surviving generations that working hard as well as together—that the deadly mistakes of the past do not always have to be repeated, as long as we are willing to learn….

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Francois Hollande, left, holds an umbrella as he walks beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a German cemetery in Consenvoye, northeastern France, Sunday May 29, 2016, during a remembrance ceremony to mark the centenary of the battle of Verdun. Hollande and Merkel are marking 100 years since the 10-month Battle of Verdun, which killed 163,000 French and 143,000 German soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands. (Jean Christophe Verhaegen/Pool Photo via AP)

Please click on the link in order to see more regarding the past weekend’s ceremony.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36407564

Day is done, gone the sun…

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

(lyrics from In My Life
attributed to John Lennon)

DSCN2988
(my father-n-law, 1942–An enlisted man who eventually was charged with the care of B-52s / stationed in England during much of the war)

I don’t know if you have ever attended the funeral service for either a current or perhaps long passed member of our armed forces….

I had not.

Oh I had seen the countless individual tributes as well as the way too soon and excruciatingly painful farewells endured by families across this great Nation of ours…those funerals and services caught in the headlines or in the papers, or in the news…victims of the countless wars and conflicts which have plagued this land of ours…
or perhaps they were merely the victims of the ambiguous passage of time…

Those solomon yet heart wrenching ceremonies where the smartly dressed and impeccably precise service members slowly and resolutely perform the age old necessary, yet painfully dreaded, task—
the final task afforded all members of the service…

That being the final overseeing and demonstrative act of respect freely given to one of their own.

It matters not whether these current young men and woman of service know the person for whom they have come as acting military representatives.
It matters not if they know the grieving families.
What matters is that they come…

As the two young Airmen waited, at full attention and salute, that already hot Spring Sunday afternoon..
waiting at the freshly dug deep hole, in the heavy red Georgia clay…
waiting with a fixed anticipation for the approaching casket of their comrade…
the silence was palpable, broken only by the muffled sniffles offered by those falling tears.

Slowly and painstakingly borne on the shoulders of grandsons, who are now the same age if not older of this once proud soldier, is a man who was simply known to them as “Papa.”
They knew he fought, but that was all.
His generation was not one to dwell on what had been…
There were not the stories of exploits or adventure..
merely that a job had been done…
that was all.

Many volunteered long before our Nation was involved.
Perhaps they sensed it would not be long…
that the all-call would soon be sounded.
The choice had not been for a career of service..
Life simply had worked out that way.

They went with no expectations…
They had learned from the prior war, the war touted to end all wars,
that glamour was not to be found in the battles of man.
Men had returned home, if they returned at all, broken.

They simply knew that now, at this crossroads of time,
that it was merely a matter of right verses wrong, good verses bad.
They went to make things right.

Today we have lost that sense of right verses wrong, good verses bad…
as we so often find ourselves drowning in the details.
The lines are blurred as the sides are skewed.
The distinctions between the good verses the bad have been lost.
We no longer seem to know our direction nor purpose or of that which is of
right or wrong.

This is not to say that war and fighting are just or right.
No war is just.
Yet it is in the end goal in which justice lies.
Freedom verses tyranny
Democracy verses oppression

They were not perfect individuals.
They were young, energetic yet flawed…
but they were ready and equally willing…
To do what was not particularly wanted or desired,
but rather to do that which was needed and necessary.

This was a time before the knowledge of PTSD or of the aftermath of trauma to the psyche.
These men and woman saw things, smelled things, heard things, did things…
that would haunt them for a lifetime.
Just as those who who have gone on since…have equally suffered,
Yet it was with this generation that those secrets were to remain..
to be held silently close and not to be freely divulged.

It was rarely spoken of once it was all over.
A job had to be done,
it was done,
and now it was over…
that was that….

They came home, often broken within,
but went on with life without looking back.
Lives grew, families grew…
as lessons were lost with time…

The two young Airmen this warm April Sunday afternoon had come to do their job,
their duty.
After the final Amen was breathlessly whispered…
Silently, yet in precise mirrored rhythm,
a flag was removed from a lone casket.

Over and over, tightly folded,
pure white gloves meticulously went about their task.
Creases were reverently straightened as a final salute was offered.
A lone solider turns then kneels with flag held tightly to his chest.

He kneels before my husband, a living mirror of the man now in the casket.
“On behalf of the President of the Untied States…”

It matters not of ones political affiliation.
It matters not whether one voted for said president…
What matters is that a timeless act is playing out…
That others may see and know of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before.

War is now mocked while our soldiers belittled.
Respect is withheld…
As a Nation now turns upon itself.

The number of the grateful who can understand are shrinking
as the number of those who served shrinks ever still.
Selflessly, patriotically, willingly…
they gave, he gave,
they served, he served.

There are those who will now say that patriotism is a lie
There is no justice in defense.
And there are no answers to be found in aggression.

But had this generation not acted as they had…
Had this generation, this greatest of all generations, not risen to
an anticipated need…
Our lives, both yours and mine, would be vastly different today…

With trembling heart, yet resolute acceptance, a son’s hands receives the flag
so lovingly offered.
Received and accepted on behalf of a man who had not been perfect,
who had not been proud but
who simply did what he thought was right for those of us who
he had no idea would reap the reward of his “gift”
A gift he never considered to be a gift.

His gift, his legacy, his memory will continue on…
through the lives of both his children as well as grandchildren.
Whereas the life of a once breathing and living human being…
that of a soldier, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a businessman, is now silenced…
His gift to all us continues on…

It is to be found not only in the aching hearts of a family
who remains broken, picking up the pieces…
yet rather it remains, as it is found, in a meticulously folded piece of cloth.
A piece of cloth he was so very proud to fly.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.