10th November 2021


November is the month of remembering. Perhaps a good thing for those of us who, getting older, find routine remembering difficult, so that our lives become governed by lists, ‘lest we forget’, which contrasts with a nostalgia that delights in recalling past experiences.

Remembering in November used to be by way of a robust – perhaps too robust – celebration of the failure of papist plots against the realm, through bonfire and fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day – November 5th. My memory is of singing a particularly nonconformist ditty:

‘Remember, Remember the 5th of November,

That God sent every good gift unto man,

But the devil to spite us

Sent fellows with mitres

To rob us of all that they can.’

The more authentic seventeenth-century words are:

‘Remember, Remember the 5th of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot…‘

followed by an account of Guy Fawkes’ ambition to blow up parliament.

More recently the revelry has moved to an Americanised and secularised version of Celtic Halloween celebrations [from October 31st – November 2nd] with its rather nasty ‘trick or treat’ customs. Involved in the Church’s Calendar at this time of year is the strange distinction between All Souls and All Saints – the former supposedly serving sentence in purgatory, the latter enjoying bliss in heaven. This contrasts with the New Testament usage where all believers are described as saints, for the salvation secured by the death of Christ cannot be anything less than complete.

Tomorrow, November 11th, has a more sombre tone as we remember those who gave their lives in all too many conflicts for their country, on Remembrance Day, and, of course, whilst honouring the dead, we also pause with pain to lament the ugliness of the vicious human relationships that fired the conflicts which occasioned their deaths.

This is the serious remembering, without the voice of Mammon telling us not forget how many shopping days are left before Christmas!

By contrast really important remembering occurs whenever we meet around the Lord’s Table, and we remember his life given up that we might enjoy eternal life.

John Briggs