November is one of those months in the year when the past crowds in on us.
Followed by Thanksgiving and Halloween in October, comes All Saints’ Day and then Remembrance Day (old Armistice Day) when we relive the great moments of yesterday and think of those into whose inheritance we have entered.
We are here in this month to keep alive a tradition — to give thanks to God for the past and to dedicate ourselves to their unfinished tasks.
By sincerely doing so, we set a good example for others.
Oft times we are quite casual with tradition. It is so easy to conclude that nobody in the past had significance until we came. But it is good for people to halt every now and again and go back over the road others have travelled.
If we knew history better, we would not be so disturbed today. A nation is judged by the type of men it honours from the past.
In last century, there was the company of people who, by the mercy of God and their own gallantry, maintained freedom a taste of which, we continue to enjoy, even today.
They fought a war they neither wanted, nor created.
They came from many homes — rich and poor, humble and educated. It was not without cost that this freedom was achieved and maintained.
Their faces we shall never see again, their hands we shall never grasp again, their voices we shall never hear again. There are eyes that will never see again, limbs that will never grow again, minds that will never think again.
We remember them in gratitude before God — the great and the good who bore the testimony of a good conscience, who fought a good fight, who finished their course, who kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7), who endured as “seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27), who conquered in the fight for whom the trumpets have already blown on the other side.
Going back in history has its perils too. The traditionalist is always in danger. It is so easy to live in the past rather than by the past.
Someone has said, history is the record of what man thinks of himself, of others and of God. Movements and institutions which have outlasted time have always been built upon these three convictions.
Nothing is permanent in any world order unless it is rooted and grounded in these three virtues — integrity, understanding and reverence.
First of all, history is the record of what man thinks of himself. Movements and institutions will live and last when they are rooted in character.
Well-meaning but misguided people are living today with a pleasing illusion. Because the illusion is so pleasing, it is all the more deadly and fatal.
The illusion is this: the enthusiasm for unselfishness and high idealism generated by the war will be permanent.
Many have made themselves believe the high levels of patriotic devotion, social restrain and self-discipline, which the wars forced upon us, will continue in peace.
That is a dreadful illusion, because history holds no such warrant.
Secondly, history is the record of what man thinks of others.
Movements and institutions which last, must express themselves in understanding.
Life, to be great, must have its setting in the framework of the community.
To personal integrity there must always be added compassionate understanding.
It is only when the sense of social responsibility is joined to personal initiative that a nation is safe.
Civilization is not a lonely journey of a lonely soul, upon a lonely God. On the other hand, it is a pilgrimage on a crowded highway on which we learn to live together for the common good.
Finally, history is the record of what man thinks of God. Movements and institutions which have outlasted time have always been founded on spiritual forces.
It is possible for man to have personal initiative and even to have a sense of community-mindedness and still make a wreck of the universe.
How all these needs repeating today.
Oftentimes we wonder how did the world get this way?
What has happened to us that times like these should come to pass? Of course, we always had the answer.
We talk about economic inequality in the world, social injustice, political chicanery and crackpot ideologies.
It is true that all these had a part in the darkness that has settled upon the world. But they do not go to the root of the matter.
The present befuddling times have come because we have lost our moral awareness and our understanding of the importance of spiritual values.
We thought the absence of faith was a sign of intellectual vigor. We supposed that man was great in proportion, as the sense of mystery vanished.
We treated the idea of God so casually. We thought of religion as one of the take-it-or-leave-it affairs.
But we suddenly discover now, the seeds of national decay are never in a political technique or social structure, but in the character of its people.
A nation can be no better than the level of the soul of its people. A new world can only come to pass through new people.
All the ingenious devices for goodwill, all the painstaking, meticulous arrangements for world peace will come to nothing if they are placed in the hands of men who are unreliable and untrustworthy.
The hope of the world rests essentially in the reconversion of man’s spirit, by heeding God’s invitation to turn to Him.
Narayan Mitra is a volunteer Chaplain at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops. He can be reached by email at ryan firstname.lastname@example.org.
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