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Honoring Our Veterans

Saturday, November 11, 2023, is Veteran’s Day in the United States. Originally it was called Armistice Day in remembrance of “when the guns fell silent” on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to end World War I in 1918. The holiday was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954 to honor all persons who have served in our nation’s military.

November 11th also honors a veteran of the 4th century, named Martin. The son of a Roman Army veteran, Martin was conscripted into the Roman cavalry. He became a catechumen and two years after his baptism he sought release from military service, saying, “I am a soldier of Christ, it is not lawful for me to fight.” He was accused of cowardice and imprisoned. He offered to stand with his fellow soldiers without weapons, but miraculously, the enemy surrendered. Martin later became the Bishop of Tours. Martin is also associated with care for the poor. According to tradition, when Martin encountered a beggar in need of clothing in the middle of winter, he cut his cloak in half and gave it away. The following night, Martin had a dream in which he saw Jesus wearing the half of his cloak that he had given to the beggar, serving as an illustration of the words of Matthew 25:36, “I was naked, and you clothed me.” The portion of the cloak belonging to St. Martin became a treasured relic, sometimes accompanying armies into battle to assure success. The small churches built to house the halved cloak (Latin: capella) on its travels also became known as capella, which came through French into English as “chapel.” The word “chaplain” shares a similar etymology, finding its origin in the title of the priest responsible for accompanying St. Martin’s cloak. St Martin’s Day also marks the beginning of a season of fasting in the church called St Martin’s Lent. Before Advent was reduced to four weeks, the season was often observed as a 40-day period of fasting. The fasting has largely disappeared, but you still sense the Advent themes regarding the “Day of the Lord” and Christ’s return in our lectionary readings this month. The echo of this longer season of Advent still exists in the Church of England where the Sundays in November are called the “Sundays before Advent.” On this Sunday we begin the season of pre-Advent, looking for the coming of Christ to restore all things. We pray for soldiers, for the poor, and for peace. And we invite all veterans to join us that we might honor your service to God and country – uniforms welcome! Grace and peace, Jerry+

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