The copy deadlines for the magazines require me to write this letter at the beginning of October and I find I’m not really in the mood for it. The trees still have most of their leaves and a few summer flowers survive, awaiting the first frost. The clocks have not returned to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) so it’s still possible to come home from work and have a stroll in the garden to unwind. Moreover, as a priest, I don’t yet need to prepare for All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Sunday. Am I, are we, right to have a slight air of depression and fore-boding as we enter November? Some writers obviously thought so. Walter Scott wrote ‘November’s sky is chill and drear.’. Thomas Hood, who seemed to have a tendency to look back, writing, ‘A Reflection’, and, ‘I Remember’, penned a catalogue of complaints about the month including, ‘No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – November!’.
There is an element of truth in these writings but we can use November’s experiences as a blessing. We spend so much of our time pre-occupied with our daily lives ahead (the Christmas lights will soon be up!) that we lose the benefit of reflection and thanksgiving for what and who have gone before. The reading of names and lighting of candles at a Commemoration Service is solemn and moving, but it’s also an opportunity to give thanks for loved ones and their lives; to keep alive our treasured memories. On November 11th many will stand at memorials whilst bugles play and standards are lowered and raised. For ex-servicemen and women and families there will be the pain of thinking about fallen comrades and loved ones but also admiration and gratitude for their laying down their lives for our freedom.
For Christians, remembering is not specifically focused on November because we express our gratitude to Jesus Christ Sunday by Sunday as we celebrate the Last Supper at our Eucharist, ‘in remembrance if me’. Jesus’ death caused intense pain to his mother Mary and his disciples and they were initially prostrate with grief. However, his memory inspired them to take up the task of spreading the Good News that His death freed the repentant from the consequences of sin. In a few short years, this news spread from Jerusalem across the Mediterranean and beyond. So November is a bitter-sweet month but not a down-in-the-mouth one. As we look back on the life of Jesus, the lives of the saints and those dear to us, may we be able to take the positive view expressed in the motto of the Norton Knatchbull School [Rev. Philip was Headmaster at Norton Knatchbull – webmaster], ‘The recollection of things well done is very pleasing’.
PGC (Rev. Philip Cox)