We offered a very moving Solemn Requiem yesterday for Remembrance Sunday, concluding with the Absolution of the Dead, wherein we remembered and prayed for all those who gave their lives for others in the conflicts and wars of the past. On Saturday evening the annual Festival of Remembrance was broadcast on the BBC. One of the poems read aloud was the very moving High Flight, written by a 19 year-old RCAF pilot just a few months before his death over the skies of England. I’m surprised, after learning more about the fame of this poem, that I’d never come across it until this past weekend. I reproduce here.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gillespie Magee Jr, 1922-1941
‘[Y]ou must attach yourself to the eternal so that you belong to it, partake of its eternity. Hold fast to truth, and thereby belong to the One who is indestructible – that disposition now becomes quite real and quite close: Hold fast to Christ; he carries you through the night of death that he himself has overcome. In this way immortality comes to make sense. It is no longer an endless duplication of the present but rather something entirely new and yet still our eternity: to be in the hands of God and thereby one with all the brothers and sister he has created for us, to be one with creation – that is finally the true life, which we now can see only through the mist. Where there is no answer to the question of God, death remains a cruel puzzle, and every other answer leads into contradiction. If God exists, however, the God who has shown himself in Jesus Christ, then there is eternal life, and death is then also a way of hope’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all them that believe: grant unto the souls of thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins; that as they have ever desired thy merciful pardon, so by the supplications of their brethren they may receive the same; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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