Remembrance Sunday

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Tower of London

[Many of you who read here, have become friends of ours, and so we like to tell you a bit when things happen our lives. This is one of those notes, Neo.]

This is my partner Jessica’s birthday, although we will unable to wish it to her today, let us remember the good times we have shared with her, and wish her a happy one and many more, better ones.

I have heard from her. She is recovering although it is a slow process, and she is both weak and weary. We will not see her here until at least Eastertide, I think, and perhaps not then. If you missed the story she went to the doctor for what she thought was sinusitis on 8 September and emailed me from the hospital parking lot that the doctor thought he saw another problem. Her last words to me were, “wish me luck-I need it.” Let that be a lesson to you, don’t ask me for luck. That problem turned out to be cancer, and very aggressive one at that. After two surgeries, on the first Friday in October, she received the received the last rites of her church. Those of us who love her were very close to despair, although we all put our trust in God. Nor were we disappointed, that Sunday she awoke from her coma without pain and without cancer.

But one doesn’t go through such an ordeal without re-evaluating your life, and that is part of what she is doing now. And I freely admit that I am praying (perhaps selfishly) that she will choose to return to us. That is in her hands, and God’s. Judging by how many of you are still reading her articles here, every day, many of you join with me in that prayer.

One doesn’t go through watching a dear friend, whom one loves, go though such an ordeal without effect either. I have spent most of the last two months worrying about and praying for her, and have rather shamefully neglected you. I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not. Jessica is the most wonderful and caring friend I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing her devastated me, and more than a few times 2 Samuel 18:33 was in my heart and prayers.

I’m going to begin trying to post again, although I’ll make no promises, it will be a day-to-day thing. And I’m going to do something that 3 months ago, I would never had considered. I am going to ask you to pray for Jessica, and for those who love her as well.

MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon her, and give her peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer


In all the English speaking world, except the United States, today is Remembrance Sunday, which is more connected than you might think to the first part of this post. Jessica’s ex-husband was a serving army officer, in fact, he was in Afghanistan when I met her. And while we will celebrate those of ours on Tuesday who survived to return to us, they will commemorate those who did not.

In her post The Thin Red Line she reminded us of the other victim’s of war, saying this:

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do. There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Like Memorial Day it was instituted to remember those brave men who died in the service of their country, and like Veteran’s Day it is on 11 November, because it was instituted to commemorate the end of the Great War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. It’s also Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers. Like a distinguished British historian told me once, “It’s always the war to end all wars, until the next one.” I’m very afraid he was right.

But it is very proper for us as Americans to remember our cousins who died in the wars of the twentieth century, they fought at our side for the same ideals. Please join me in remembering their sacrifice.

It should also be remembered that on 17 October 1921, General Pershing presented, pursuant to a special act of Congress, the US Medal of Honor, in the name of the people of the United States, to the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the only time it has been awarded to a non-American in a foreign service.

Remember them

A Question in the Comments

copts-attacked1On Jessica’s post Where is Comfort, the Unit asked Jessica in comments a question.

Golly gee Ms. Hof. Thanks for comment. I wonder if you could maybe post here as to a question I still have? One of the last things Momma said to me is “the righteous suffer with the unrighteous.” I spare you (well spare myself) the details as many suffer. But her circumstance didn’t let me delve into what she knew Biblically on that.

That was 2006, she 91…me now in seventies. Thank you so much. the unit

Jess got sick before she answered it, and I think it deserves an answer. She’s far better qualified but I’ll take a shot at it.

St. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:18 that

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Which is, of course, fairly obvious, or at least we hope so, since we are all sinners, and hence unjust, and need His grace to save us.

But you and I know that sometimes it seems that we who try to do the right thing feel like we are almost oppressed in our society doesn’t it. I, like you see all the stories about Christianity being driven from public life, and all the rest, and in truth sometimes even it seems like those we love and are in the faith hurt us. And we get sick, and we suffer, even in fact as Jess herself has, and those that love her have, and it just doesn’t seem right, does it?

In many ways, I suspect a lot of it, is simply that our culture has led us to believe that we should be happy, in this life. Sometimes we are; but that’s not what Jesus promised was it? He promised that we would be persecuted in this life, and would find our happiness in the next.

But Ezekiel 21 tells us this:

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel; and say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I I Am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.Because I will cut off both righteous and wicked from you, therefore My sword shall go out of its sheath against all flesh from south to north,

And that is a pretty dire prophecy, I would say. Dr. John Oakes tells us here, however

When God brings physical judgment on a nation, both the godly and the

ungodly will suffer. This may seem unfair upon first consideration, but
when God judges a nation, as he surely has a right to do, the suffering of
both the good and the evil is inevitable. However, the righteous may
suffer physically, but they will not lose their place in heaven if their
heart is devoted to God. This is a general law of human existence. God
causes the rain to fall on the good and the evil. Some of the blessings of
God will fall on those who do not even acknowledge him. Sometimes, even
good people are caused to suffer because of the sins of others, but in the
end, God will reward them for their righteous life. God does not promise a
care-free life to those who turn to him.

And so it seems like in many ways, if you are righteous, you will suffer along with the unrighteous, in this world. Calamities happen to us all, just as we all get the spring rain, we also get the tornado. We are seeing plenty of that recently aren’t we, what with the Copts and the Iraqi Christians, two of the oldest of Christian communities, going back to the time of the Apostles themselves.

But, at the last we are judged individually, and that is where our reward is. In the next world, not this one. And we have to trust Him, who told us in Mathew 11:30

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

And the key here is that a yoke is used on at least two oxen, it is surely placed on us, but the other side is placed on Christ Himself, who helps us by sharing our burden.

Naught For Our Comfort

I doubt that it is news to any of you but, one of the great joys of mine in writing this blog for the last two years has been the help and friendship of Jessica, and her co-author Chalcedon. I admire them both greatly, and one of the reasons for that is that they have rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen all of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’ writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

And so they have enriched my life, and will continue to do so, God willing, and yours as well because it is reflected in my posts for you. And so

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to our time as well. to continue

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted to me on one of our political defeats

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But we are going to have to soldier until after the next election, and hope we find a man (not a god) to help us lead in the rebuilding western civilization, for without our leadership it will fall. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

[…]

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

The eternal battle against barbarism is ours to win for our generation or to lose for generations to come. It has taken us a thousand years to get where we are, and it might take longer to recover. So, Stand Fast, my friends.

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

Chesterton on “The American Creed”

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelat...

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelatin print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read here much, you already know how much I like G. K. Chesterton. In 1922 he visited America and he was struck by the questions he was asked as he came through customs. In fact, he compared them to the Spanish Inquisition, and he made it into a compliment, because of all the countries of the world, only America is founded on a creed, and a written one at that.

In many ways it seems that we have lost that specialness, maybe I should say exceptionalism, lately, and if we do, I think we lose the essence of America. I say that because America, since the time of John Winthrop, has never been a strip of dirt, or a bunch of people; it has been an idea. Steven Hayward on the Powerline Blog spoke of this yesterday, and I think it to be very important, as well.

Here’s GKC’s comment:

It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

Via Chesterton on “The American Creed” | Power Line.

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history, and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle, and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. Thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

Keeping the Faith

I can’t speak for you but, this has been the longest summer I can remember. It has had many distractions in my life, and our lives as Christians and citizens of free countries and it seems like none of them were for the good, or at least they seemed to have little good at the time. My friends, and my God have pulled me through, sometimes nearly against my will. I’m not sure that the trials of ’14 are over, in fact, I’m quite sure they are not.

Still, as always, I find comfort in the music of my faith, in many ways, I think it one of the great contributions of Protestantism is in the awesome (in the real sense) hymns of faith that we have brought to our worship. These are some of my favorites, and I’m sharing them with you today mostly because maybe they will help you in your troubles as they do me in mine.

I was reminded today of a poem that Jess adores, and I’m going to use part of it but, I will let her introduce it. Jess’ words are all from Naught for your Comfort and are in italics

Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse deals with an episode in what must have seemed at the time the doomed attempts by King Alfred of Wessex to deal with the invading Norsemen. No one did historical-Romantic despair like GKC, and I adore the whole poem. It is far too long to quote in full, but the lines which came back to me as the result of reading the two posts were those Our Lady speaks to King Alfred at the lowest moment of his fortunes: Read more of this post

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