A Relevance Not to Be Forgotten
Memorial Day 2021 in the United States finds everyone adjusting to a wide-ranging mix of COVID-19 guidelines. We are now on an optimistic course, hopeful that the experiences of the last year will soon become a memory.
Yet memories often matter, and some matter a great deal. The lessons we may have learned from this crisis of “our generation” are many, one of which is a deeper awareness of our vulnerabilities. And not to be forgotten is the lesson of the meaning of freedom and of life itself. These are lessons that appropriately apply in what matters also as our nation pauses for Memorial Day.
The core significance of this solemn holiday is truly the value we place on the price of freedom. Memorial Day is a time to step back for a moment and to specifically think of those who gave their lives to protect this right. Unfortunately, the growing absence of the men and women of the successive generations of past wars, such as those who experienced WWII and the Korean War to name only a few, presents a kind of different vulnerability for us all. It lies in the reality that as fewer and fewer of those who lived the trials of terrible wars, directly or indirectly, are present to us, we may fall further away from the relevance of history to us personally. But history does not need to be personal to be relevant. History affects us all.
Those who can teach us first hand are witnesses to experiences and a past we do not or cannot know ourselves.
Our vulnerability is that we may unintentionally slip into a complacency; or that we might allow our focus to diminish in the ways undeserving of the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives for our freedoms. And we become less when we fail to be moved to compassion by this.
We pray that we never allow this to happen, of seeing Memorial Day as just another holiday. It is never that for the families whose lives have been indelibly marked tragically through war.
Though Memorial Day is a government holiday, it is essentially important to us as Christians. History is always relevant to our present moment. Without the sacrifices of those who gave their lives and continue to do so in military service, and to protect our country, we would not be free to worship in the churches our ancestors or those before us have built. As Christians and as Catholics we are grateful in this. In practice, at each Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy we hear the prayers of petition chanted for “our government and for all in the service of our country”. As always, we pray for everyone — generations past, present and future. We recognize the courage and fortitude of those who answer the call to serve.
This is why on Memorial Day weekend it is fitting in our places of worship and churches to include some form of recognition of this holiday, whether in word or song, prayer or practice. It is fitting to do so in respect of the past members of our individual parishes who died to protect our freedom of worship. And we remember all in service everywhere to our nation. Let us embrace the opportunity to proudly sing God Bless America. We are blessed by God to have this great privilege to openly worship in freedom. Let us remember those who earned for us everything we can enjoy today. And let us pray that God will guide the hearts of all leaders on the path of Truth.
God Bless America
See also: Our Fallen Heroes
Above photo: A section of the Moving Wall Memorial honoring the 58,315 men and women who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. This “Wall that Heals” came to Swoyersville, Pa. June 2017. The town is the location of our sister parish, St. Nicholas Church.