Saturday, 12 November 2011

Armistice Day

Yesterday was Armistice Day, and tomorrow in the UK is Remembrance Sunday.

What a co-incidence that Armistice Day (which commemorates the cease-fire at the end of the Great War in 1918) fell on the feast-day of St Martin of Tours, Martinmas, one of the Church's most ancient and solemn feasts, and one which commemorates both the patron saint of soldiers and of conscientious objectors.

St Martin was a Roman soldier who, upon seeing a beggar, cut his cloak with his sword, and placed it upon his shoulders. Christ the Lord revealed himself to be the beggar in a dream, and Martin left the army to seek baptism in the nearest town, now called Tours. He was accused of cowardice, but his later life shows his bravery.

The Church at this time was suffering a great division over its belief in the nature of God and Christ. The Bishop of Tours, St Hilary, was expelled from the city, and Martin travelled around southern France and northern Italy preaching the Gospel, and even found himself exiled.

When Hilary was restored to his see, Martin returned and established a monastery, and was popularly acclaimed bishop when the see became vacant. A little reminiscent of the later St Boniface, Martin was a vociferous opponent of paganism, and he himself to an axe to a great pine tree worshipped by the local people, at great threat to his own person, so great was his love for Christ in others, he completely forgot himself.

Such is the love that many have themselves faced death on behalf of others, and died in the great wars of the last century, and they continue to offer their own lives today in diverse conflicts. Conscious that East Anglia has a large number of military personelle, and an important heritage in its involvement in the two world wars, being so close to the front, we unite ourselves in prayer this weekend, and, indeed, throughout the year, with the armed forces, alive and dead, and continue to beseech the Lord to soften the hearts of men and women for the propagation of peace.

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