"O Valiant Hearts" - a heretical Remembrance hymn?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by caubeen, Apr 9, 2007.

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  1. A current thread on "A Godless Society?" prompts me to post another, which is not irrelevant to Eastertide at a time when soldiers are dying in war.

    "O Valiant Hearts" is a popular Remembrance hymn, with powerful words and a memorable tune.

    But I remember a long-running debate between a branch of the RBL - who wanted it, in full, for Remembrance Sunday services - and a succession of clergy in the Legion Branch's parish church, who wanted to use it only if verse 5 was omitted.

    The objection was theological, and based on how the last line of that verse draws a parallel between the universal death-sacrifice of Christ and the deaths of soldiers - i.e. that the soldiers' "Calvaries" were comparable in kind to (though "lesser" in degree than) those of Christ.

    It would be interesting to have comments from ARRSErs on this - although for non-Christians and agnostics it's quite irrelevant, of course.

    Should verse 5 be retained or omitted?

    Here's the particular verse :

    Still stands his Cross from that dread hour to this,
    Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
    Still, through the veil, the Victor's pitying eyes
    Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

    And here's the entire hymn.

    O valiant hearts who to your glory came
    through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
    tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
    your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

    Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
    as who had heard God's message from afar;
    all you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
    to save mankind — yourselves you scorned to save.

    Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
    into the light that nevermore shall fade;
    deep your contentment in that blest abode,
    who wait the last clear trumpet-call of God.

    Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
    rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
    while in the frailty of our human clay,
    Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self-same way.

    Still stands his Cross from that dread hour to this,
    like some bright star above the dark abyss;
    still, through the veil, the Victor's pitying eyes
    look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

    These were his servants, in his steps they trod,
    following through death the martyred Son of God:
    Victor, he rose; victorious too shall rise
    they who have drunk his cup of sacrifice.

    O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
    whose cross has bought them and whose staff has led,
    in glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
    commits her children to thy gracious hand.
  2. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Well without digging into my bible (or equivalent web resource) Christ often alludes to being as he, so I think that death in sacrifice is comparable. That said I don't even think he was crucified on the cross at Golgotha, but he was definitely spiritually crucified in Aegypt on the cross of the word/tetragrammaton/IHVH/Creation.

    That's my tuppence, and happy to get a little more theological if required...
  3. I'd assume the attitude towards verse 5, line 4 was derived from a belief, central to Anglicanism among other Christian branches, that one element of the Trinity was incarnate in flesh and suffered a literal death on a literal cross to expiate the sins of all Mankind for all time.

    That granted, the specific death in a specific context of an individual soldier (not being an incarnate element of the Godhead) would not be comparable in divinity.

    At least I think that'd be the orthodox line . . . .
  4. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Yep that would seem to make sense. Personally I believe in Jesus' ministry more because he was a man, than if I bought into the divine line. He is more exalted to my mind by being a man, that as a finite representation of the infinite and absolute, something that is counterintuitive to my mind. I had these very issues on the Nicean when I took confirmation, but was told 'it's a mystery' to be contemplated, which I subsequently did, received epiphany, and thus no longer adhere to the doctrine.
  5. Well, I’m an agnostic, but it seems to me that these Biblical references are relevant:

    If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
    Mark 8:34

    And anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.
    Matthew 10:38

    So it seems to me that a Christian’s life is supposed to be, in a sense, a “lesser Calvary”, even if it doesn’t generally involve the sacrifice of one’s life.

    That being the case. I can’t see any reason to object to the verse in question. The clerics who do object seem to be saying that they know better than the Evangelists, or indeed better than the man (or God) whose words they wrote down. That’s a rather odd position for a minister of religion to take.
  6. Again, I'm inferring the "official" theological line on this, but I'd think the argument would be that the earthly cross which the Christian is bidden to take up is of a different order, and correspondingly of lesser magnitude and significance, than the cross of Calvary, with its timeless, all-embracing significance in Christianity. That is, that the follower of Christ's cross is personal and specific, while the Cross of Calvary was/is universal and all-redeeming.

    The old Rector who first joined battle - sometimes heatedly, but always in the end harmoniously - with that RBL branch would certainly have a view, which I can only attempt to summarise; but he's long dead, and has taken his WW1 MC (Mons) and DSO (Somme - both as a combatant infantry officer) with him, presumably to join the padre son he'd lost at Cassino.
  7. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Good references Chinggis, the NT is littered with exactly the type of allusions you have quoted.
  8. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    I think there are definitely two schools in Christianity, which I'll loosely categorise as doctrinal : ministerial.

    There are those who are Christian by the merits of adhering to the orthodox doxtrine of the Church compared to those who are Christian by the merits of belief in Jesus' ministry, lessons, parables, life example.

    Of course there is much room for crossover.
  10. There often is very significant overlap, I think, although perhaps less so with the decline of regular observance among some western Christian groups, and the increasing numbers of those who profess Christianity, but outside the structures and dogmatic teachings of organised Christianity.
  11. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Yep, that's exactly my point.

    Just to add I do think that Jesus was the word made flesh, and that 'The light' shone through him by his example. I just don't believe that he is the source of that light itself.
  12. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    To paraphrase Bill Hicks, I don't believe in a 'trickster' God. Living in the material while believing in the absolute beyond is hard enough, without further complications of doctrine. The God I believe in makes things easier, not harder.
  13. The "proceeding from the Father and the Son" doctrine may cover that final point, for Catholic believers, I think - but those are deeper theological waters than these sort, fat, hairy legs can easily wade, I suspect.
  14. That is the particular problem for every parson, on Trinity Sunday, especially.

    Jonathan Swift, Dean Of St Patrick's, dealt with it/sidestepped it neatly by telling his flock something like, "God has commanded us to believe a mystery and a seeming contradiction; so we'd better just get on and simply believe it, because faith is far more than a matter of believing what's logically proveable."
  15. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Still a good thread to ponder at this time of the year, and as you said in relation to the hymn and current serving soldiers...

    ...just a shame the Bliar abuses such sacrifice by interpretation of his and Georgie boy's, (anti)messianic calling.