Tuesday, April 26, 2011

EASTER AND ANZAC DAY SACRIFICIAL DEATH

We profess Your Resurrection
"..shall not have died in vain.."

EASTER AND ANZAC - ETERNAL AND TEMPORAL TRANSFORMATION

EASTER and ANZAC Days occurring on successive days this year crowded the imagination. There is no equivalence in the importance of the two, obviously.
But we are only human, and the power of the Sacred Liturgy is so great , that our minds are left swimming with impressions and images and memories of the Sacred Triduum,of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood, of  Innocence Himself tortured and punished and killed, of Nature itself groaning at the Sacrilege, sky darkened, Earth trembling, the dead arising and appearing to many, the Temple veil torn from top to bottom(which man could not do) , God entombed and then the wonder and mystery of the Resurrection and the transformed Glorious Body of Christ. All of this our minds are absorbing.

Then, all at once the very next day the powerful electronic Media are reminding us of our great national day of Remembrance of our War Dead – ANZAC DAY. Dawn Services are held in darkness and even in pouring rain, wreaths are laid, the Dead remembered, honoured and later celebrated, old comrades march even with the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of the fallen, most of whom died on foreign fields in Europe, the Middle East and Asia or at sea,  even close to home.

There is no Equivalence, and never could be, between the Death of Our God and Saviour on the Cross and even all the Dead in Wars. But perhaps, no, surely, there is something to be said about the two events in relation to one another.

Our Divine Lord came to Earth to suffer and die for each and every man, woman and child that has ever lived or ever will live. “For this, I came into the World.”But we come into the World to live – struggling from our first cry in the effort to keep breathing, and we go on struggling to do so until God Himself calls us away.  Christ intentionally submitted to His Father’s Will that in this way He should reconcile us to Himself, offering to all of us the chance ,by our own free will, to achieve Eternal Life. By His Life, Death and Resurrection He made “all things new”.

But what of the War dead? They did not intend to die. Why did they fight? In World War I they fought for “King and Country” though it must be said, there was no credible direct threat against our country – they were really fighting for the British Empire which was supposedly protecting our country. In World War II, they were fighting for our country, though at first the connection was tenuous – England was at war to defend Poland (!) and “accordingly” Australia itself was at War against the King’s enemies. Only later when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, did it become undeniable that we were fighting for our country as Japanese intentions became horribly and quickly clear. And it also became painfully clear that the Empire not only could not, but would not defend this “outpost” (itself capable of containing the whole of the former “Mother Country “on one of its cattle stations. In more recent conflicts they have been fighting in support of our international commitments aimed at keeping a variety of threats away from our shores.
An early Postcard of Villers- Bretonneux War Memorial ( a little spelling problem)
now a centre of growing  pilgrimage.

Their deaths,
 World War I: 61,513 (1 for every 83 in the population at the time), and
World War II 39,761 (1 for every 185 in the population at the time),
Distorted the future development of the Australian population, but helped free Europe from German Imperial domination in World War I. But because we “won the War but lost the Peace” due to the excessive penalties imposed on Germany at Versailles, their sacrifice resulted only in World War II. In this case those who gave their lives did so saving the World from the hideous evil of Nazi Germany and the primitive pagan barbarity of the Empire of Japan.
But in the Australia of to-day, which has, as Cardinal Pell has so incisively noted been ‘living off the moral capital “of its Christian Heritage for the last 100 years, and has all but exhausted it, there is a casting about for some spiritual foundations (Christianity being largely ignored, having been already cast aside not to be given a second look). These foundations seem to be hoped for in the ANZAC tradition. This Tradition is burgeoning in popularity. It is even assimilating the Catholic tradition of pilgrimage, in these cases to Gallipoli –scene of the ANZAC Legend and more lately to Villers Bretonneux where tens of thousands of our War Dead are buried, and to other places such as the site of the horrific Burma Death Railway and Long Tan in Vietnam.

SACRIFICIAL DEATH
There is a great irony in the fact that the post- Christian and still Christian throngs, can choose to recognize in our War Dead the idea of Sacrificial Death, of lives given up for the good of others.
But yet, they seem unwilling or unable to recognize the greater truth of the original Sacrificial Death of Our Saviour. For the post Christian throngs, the problem is truly one of inadequate evangelisation – we have not adapted as well as we might to the advent of modern communications. But more important than this has been, in the Catholic Church, the necessary preoccupation with internal affairs -  fighting the evil of division and error set in train by The Father of Lies in the wake of the Council. Pre-occupied as we have been with this internal struggle we have lost momentum among those outside the Church. Few people alive to-day can recall the pre-Conciliar (and thus pre RCIA!) regularity of high profile conversions to Catholicism which were only a fraction of the regular wave of ordinary folk attracted to the Church by her unity, truth and self confidence and devotion.
And sadly, even the still Christian throngs at those commemorations; contain many who will not recognize the Sacrificial Nature of Our Saviour’s Death. Indeed, in the wake of the Conciliar confusion, many seek to deny sin, thus guilt and thus any need for a Saviour – blissfully ignoring Jesus’ own words.
We have a great task in front of us to bring our people back to Christ in the fullness of truth.And some of our shepherds seem asleep or deceived.

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