"O Valiant Hearts" - a heretical Remembrance hymn?

#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.
 

Nehustan

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#2
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 . . . .
 

Nehustan

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#4
caubeen said:
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 . . . .
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
Chinggis said:
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.
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.
 

Nehustan

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#7
Chinggis said:
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.
Good references Chinggis, the NT is littered with exactly the type of allusions you have quoted.
 

Nehustan

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#8
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.
 
#9
Nehustan said:
caubeen said:
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 . . . .
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.

In what way could the life and teaching of a non-divine man - however fine his life and exalted his teachings - be of more significance that those of a deity incarnate as man? Or are you arguing that Jesus' life/teachings seem more impressive just because they are those of a mortal man, devoid of all divinity? i.e. a quite exceptional man, above other men? Or do you stop short of any belief in the immanent and numinous?

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.

The "believe it, but it's a mystery" advocates have always irritated those who are fond of beliefs derived only from strict logical thought and empirical evidence. But, again, I suppose the theological party line would be that we are commanded to believe with "heart and mind and soul", and thus that there are emotional and spiritual truths that aren't amendable to ratiocination.

The longer I live the more inclined I am to believe that there are important dimensions not accessible to logic and reason.

Apologies - I have fizooked-up this quoting and commenting format.
 
#10
Nehustan said:
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.
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.
 

Nehustan

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#11
Or are you arguing that Jesus' life/teachings seem more impressive just because they are those of a mortal man, devoid of all divinity? i.e. a quite exceptional man, above other men?
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.
 

Nehustan

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#12
The "believe it, but it's a mystery" advocates have always irritated those who are fond of beliefs derived only from strict logical thought and empirical evidence. But, again, I suppose the theological party line would be that we are commanded to believe with "heart and mind and soul", and thus that there are emotional and spiritual truths that aren't amendable to ratiocination.
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
Nehustan said:
Or are you arguing that Jesus' life/teachings seem more impressive just because they are those of a mortal man, devoid of all divinity? i.e. a quite exceptional man, above other men?
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.
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
Nehustan said:
The "believe it, but it's a mystery" advocates have always irritated those who are fond of beliefs derived only from strict logical thought and empirical evidence. But, again, I suppose the theological party line would be that we are commanded to believe with "heart and mind and soul", and thus that there are emotional and spiritual truths that aren't amendable to ratiocination.
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.
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."
 

Nehustan

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#15
caubeen said:
...but those are deeper theological waters than these sort, fat, hairy legs can easily wade, I suspect.
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.
 
#16
Nehustan said:
caubeen said:
...but those are deeper theological waters than these sort, fat, hairy legs can easily wade, I suspect.
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.
Thanks. Glad you think so - and yes, Bliar's general demeanour has been pretty awful, although when interviewed on Thursday, when the 15 came home and the 4 died in Iraq, I feel he got his remarks just about right.

But then even the proverbial blind dog can find a bone occasionally . . . . .
 
#17
Excuse me interupting the theological debate, but a rather more base matter upsets me.

The matter of verse 5 aside, why is this hymn, that I was brought up to believe represented Rememberance Day, so rarely sung nowadays?

'Tis a great shame I think.

"For All the Saints" seems to have taken a bit of a back seat as well.
 

Nehustan

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#18
Well I think that Church has become less of a feature of community than it used to. I was brought up Anglican and was at church regularly whether on a Sunday as standard, or as part of a church parade on specific occasions. I think that Church is less of a feature in people's life, as I grew up in the 80s it became less of one with me. I always loved singing hymns, and as a chorister it set the stage for my interest in music.

I have this horrible feeling that 'evangelical' worship is in the ascendant, a step away from elevator pop, it has replaced the heart lifting hymns of old...really quite sad. I don't 'dig' this whole evangelical movement...but then what do I know...I'm not even doctrinally Christian anymore.
 
#19
Nehustan said:
Well I think that Church has become less of a feature of community than it used to. I was brought up Anglican and was at church regularly whether on a Sunday as standard, or as part of a church parade on specific occasions. I think that Church is less of a feature in people's life, as I grew up in the 80s it became less of one with me. I always loved singing hymns, and as a chorister it set the stage for my interest in music.

I have this horrible feeling that 'evangelical' worship is in the ascendant, a step away from elevator pop, it has replaced the heart lifting hymns of old...really quite sad. I don't 'dig' this whole evangelical movement...but then what do I know...I'm not even doctrinally Christian anymore.
I wholeheartedly agree with you about the direction the C of E is taking.

I have roughly the same church background in terms or era and involvement, and sadly am moving away rapidly from a belief in Religion to one of Faith.

Personally I hold Carey, the 103rd Canterbury, largely responsible for the Evangelical move, which would not have happened whilst Runcie was at the helm.
 
#20
Need the rest of us wonder how "Hoc est enim corpus meum" passed into popular culture as "Hocus-Pocus"?
 

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