The Church of Ireland

11/11/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/11/2019 08:49

The National Service for Remembrance 2019 in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Press Releases11 Nov 19

The National Service for Remembrance 2019 in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

The National Service of Remembrance took place yesterday, Sunday November 10 2019, Remembrance Sunday, in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, at 3.15pm.

The service was attended by President Michael D Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins. It was led by the Dean, the Very Revd William Morton, and the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson presided.

Readings were given by the Polish Ambassador, HE Ms Anna Sochańska, and the British Ambassador, HE Mr Robin Barnett CMG. The preacher was Canon David Oxley (see below for the text of his address). The Government was represented by the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan and the Deputy Lord Mayor of Dublin was also in attendance.

The congregation included both serving members of the Defence Forces and veterans.

Sermon by Canon David Oxley in St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin on Remembrance Sunday, November 10

In our house Remembrance Sunday is a delicate affair. Apart from our denominational diversity, we enjoy a cocktail of national identities. Irish, certainly, of various shades of green, and barely a hint of orange. Then, on my side, an English mother, albeit one well rooted in the Liberties of Dublin. But my wife's mother is German. I believe I have relatives by marriage who fought for the Third Reich - and not unwillingly. It's not everyone who can boast that their mother-in-law had Adolf Hitler as a godfather. It's not everyone who'd want to. It has been interesting observing my son coming to terms with his complicated heritage. A born diplomat, and unwilling to offend either grandmother, living or departed, he has channelled his inner de Valera and refuses to take sides.

Whatever about the politics of national neutrality, from the moral point of view it was hardly possible to remain neutral in the face of the kind of evil represented by fascism. Many individual Irish men and women did in fact take sides and volunteered to oppose Nazism in arms, and we commemorate their sacrifice this afternoon. And I suppose what I want to say to you is just this: in the conflict between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, neutrality is not an option.

When I was a student, one Saturday I happened to go in to a Sale of Work that was being held in Christ Church Presbyterian Rathgar - a great ecumenical occasion - and picked up, as you do, a slim volume on the second-hand bookstall. It has 75p on the fly-leaf, a book published in 1979 called 'A Backdoor to Heaven'. It was my first, serendipitous, encounter with Rabbi Lionel Blue. I came to appreciate him very much as a man of holiness and humour and honesty, both in his writings and in his broadcasts on the BBC.

'A Backdoor to Heaven' is an account of his reluctant journey to faith, a mixture of autobiography and reflection. Lionel grew up as the child of Jewish immigrants in the East End of London during the 1930s. A difficult time for Jews, and he recalls the anxieties generated by Sir Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts and their attempt to march provocatively through Stepney.

I learned that reality was real and very solid. You could dream what you liked, but it would not change. I knew that no prayers would get people off the trains to concentration camps, and wishing would never make it so, despite religion or popular songs; it was the same syrup whether it came in full canonicals or from a juke box. When Mosley marched through the East End I prayed very hard. He didn't get through, but I gave the credit to my father who landed in hospital, my grandfather who landed in the arms of the police, and my grandmother's old cronies who carried buckets of water to throw from first-floor windows in Aldgate. (page 5)

To this suspicion of piety he added a coldly realistic view of religious organisations.

My judgment was simple and ruthless. Some religious individuals had come out with honour, but their organizations, their Churches, chapels and liturgies had not. For a decade evil had reigned in Europe, and the organizations had compromised themselves out of credibility… It was not that religious people were any worse than other people. The horrifying fact was that they were the same. (page 19)

Reality, honesty and truth - however uncomfortable - remained hall-marks of the rabbi's spirituality. He frequently quotes a phrase from the Synagogue Liturgy 'Truth is our King'. 'Emeth malkenu. Truth about ourselves, body, mind and soul. There was one broadcast 'Thought for the Day', in which he quite simply and courageously 'came out' - are there many clerics who would dare do such a thing? Truth is our King, and the truth shall set you free.

St Paul, writing to the Ephesians, describes the spiritual armour in which the Christian goes forth to engage the power of evil, and he includes 'the belt of truth'. One of the things we have been forcibly reminded of in recent years is the importance of truth and honesty in our public discourse. I know it has been said that diplomacy is essentially lying, but to a nicer class of people… (Apologies, your Excellencies!) All clergy know the value of the occasional white lie and Jesuitical 'mental reservation'! But the cynical disregard of truth, the deliberate manipulation of information, the poisoning of the well of knowledge, has become endemic at the highest levels and has proved corrosive and destructive of our society. Social media and computerised wizardry may make this easier to do - so speaks the Luddite - but the motivation to deceive comes from within the darker corners of the human heart, where greed, lust and hatred fester.

In 1940 the Church of England put out special forms of prayer 'In Time of War'. One of them, which I have used over and over in the last few years, says:

Make faith to prevail over fear, and righteousness over force, and truth over the lie

There is no room for neutrality in the conflict between truth and falsehood.

Truth is our King, and the truth shall make you free.

A selection of photos from the service is available here