The first two-minute silence held in London (11 November 1919) was reported in The Manchester Guardian on 12 November 1919:
The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.
The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.
Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all.
“Do this in memory of me”
These words of Christ at the Last Supper were more than a simple command to commemorate. They are a call to awakening that in this life this important historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, has left his mark on the world. As we come to the altar to follow this command the effects of that first Good Friday are not only called to mind, but are brought to effect having a direct bearing on our lives.
Our memory forms us, it has an impact on who we are as individuals and as a society. The Early Church Fathers spoke of the memory as being ‘a power of the soul’; the philosopher, Aristotle referred to it as being the ‘scribe of the soul’. Memory informs, rightly or wrongly, and impacts our decision making and therefore our future. It also keeps the events of the past effective in our lives.
This Month of the Holy Souls is a particular time where we recall with an act of memory those who have gone before us from this life and have left their mark, directly or indirectly. It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance a time when we feel that the veil between time and eternity is thin, and we can sense that a greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. The Church has settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. The Church kept the day, but it changed the custom.
The greatest and only offering, to redeem both living and dead, has already been made by Christ, and if we want to celebrate our loving connection on both sides of the veil, we need only now to make gifts for and to the living.
Depending on when you read this, All Souls will be a poignant reminder of loved ones recently gone. If you read this around Remembrance Sunday you will especially ‘remember’ those who have given their lives through war in service of our country. They left home and family often to foreign lands in the search of justice, freedom and peace; the effects of which we feel in our society today.
The memories we recall should spur us forward in the search for true harmony and peace throughout the world. As the Lord commanded the apostles to “Do this in memory of me”; when we gather, it is to pray for the graces of the great sacrifice of Calvary to engulf the whole world that we may live in the harmony for which Christ prayed; and to our fallen we say “We will remember them”.
A SONNET OF REMEMBRANCE
November pierces with its black remembrance
Of all the bitterness and waste of war.
Our silence tries but fails to make a semblance
Of that lost peace they thought worth fighting for.
Our silence seeths instead with wraiths and whispers,
And all the restless rumours of new wars,
The shells are singing as we sing our vespers,
No moment is unscarred, there is no pause,
In every instant bloodied innocence
Falls to the weary earth, and whilst we stand
Quiescence ends again in acquiescence,
And Abel’s blood still cries in every land.
One silence only might redeem that blood
Only the silence of a dying God.
I do hope you can join us as we seek to draw closer to Christ.
If you would like to explore faith (as well as doubts), who Jesus is and why believe him, please do consider coming to Alpha, which is a course we are running on Monday evenings from 31st October. For more information please contact the church office email@example.com