I don’t know whether it is a symptom of getting older, but recently I have found myself having vivid remembrances of events in my youth, for example, the performance in Durham Cathedral, England, of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius over 40 years ago to which I referred on All Souls’ Day. Another such, also in Durham Cathedral about the same time, is a sermon on Remembrance Sunday given by Stephen Sykes, then Canon Professor in the University, later Bishop of Ely.
He quoted from Ecclesiastes 3 (our piece for Reflection today): ‘There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’ ‘Now,’ he said dramatically, and paused. ‘Now is the time for silence.’
Contemplating this Remembrance-tide, these words speak vividly to me again. We remember the hundreds of thousands who fell in World War I, the war to end all wars; those who died in the Second World War, including those in the Holocaust; those who have died in conflict since. Then there is the horror of our own day: the unspeakable atrocities of 7 October in Israel, and the carnage in Gaza; trench warfare again in Europe, in Ukraine; Sudan; Congo; Yemen. Now indeed is time for silence.
Silence as lament in the face of such devastation and loss, overwhelmed at the depths of human folly. Silence to hold before God all those caught up in these tragedies, the God who in Jesus Christ shares in this suffering. Yet silence impregnated with hope that, as we shall soon celebrate once again, ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.’
‘O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come;
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home.’