Sunday, April 25, 2010

Launceston ANZAC Day Service

His Worship the Mayor (in his furs, lace ruff and chain of office), with the President of the Returned and Services League (Launceston sub-branch), and the Chaplain to the Mayor, presided over to-day's 95th anniversary ANZAC Day service at the Cenotaph.  It's a good thing to hear short speeches of unabashed patriotism in this day and age.  A high school student, who last year had won a prize to travel with other Tasmanian youth to visit Gallipoli and the Western Front, likewise spoke with newfound knowledge and conviction about those who died that we might live in freedom.  

Behind them stood the Cenotaph, with the serried ranks of names of the fallen, beneath "For God and Country", "1914-1919", "1939-1946" and further lists of years when Australians fought in Korea, in Vietnam, and so forth.  During the minute's silence, I said a private De profundis for the glorious dead (the Chaplain being a Protestant, there was no direct prayer that they rest in peace, though he prayed well for all other ends).  After the service, I came up to its base to see the many wreaths laid as part of the commemoration, by politicians, veterans, schoolchildren and more.

There was an interesting choice of Scripture reading: the beginning of David's praise of God for his deliverance from all his enemies, which is given twice in Holy Writ, as II Kings (Samuel) xxii, 1-7 and also as Psalm 17(18):1-6 (plus the superscription).  I quote here (from the former passage) what was quite aptly described as the prayer of every soldier in the midst of battle:

And David spoke to the Lord the words of this canticle, in the day that the Lord delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul, and he said: The Lord is my rock, and my strength, and my saviour.  God is my strong one, in him will I trust: my shield, and the horn of my salvation: he lifteth me up, and is my refuge: my saviour, thou wilt deliver me from iniquity.  I will call on the Lord who is worthy to be praised: and I shall be saved from my enemies.  For the pangs of death have surrounded me: the floods of Belial have made me afraid. The cords of hell compassed me: the snares of death prevented me.  In my distress I will call upon the Lord, and I will cry to my God: and he will hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry shall come to his ears.

I was very pleased that we sang both the Royal and the National Anthems at the end.  After all, it was "God save our gracious King" that the soldiers sang right down to the last few decades, and it is their day; and since the defeat of the Republic Referendum in 1999, Australia remains what it has always been, an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown.  We have the freedom to determine our government and way of life, a freedom maintained by those who died in its defence and in defence of the free world (or, as used to be said unabashedly, "For God, King and Empire").

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