THOUGHT for the week

The Oban Times - - ANNOUNCEMENTS - Ken­neth Ross Parish Min­is­ter, Nether­lorn

On any reck­on­ing, the centenary of the ar­mistice that brought the First World War to an end is a mo­ment to stop and re­flect.

It is heart­en­ing that this es­pe­cially poignant Re­mem­brance Day will be thought­fully ob­served by com­mu­ni­ties through­out Ar­gyll, along with many oth­ers across the coun­try.

One per­son who thought deeply about the cat­a­strophic ef­fect of the First World War was the Ir­ish poet Wil­liam But­ler Yeats. A year af­ter the ar­mistice he wrote his fa­mous poem, The Sec­ond Com­ing, in­clud­ing the lines:

Turn­ing and turn­ing in the widen­ing gyre The fal­con can­not hear the fal­coner; Things fall apart; the cen­tre can­not hold; Mere an­ar­chy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and ev­ery­where

The cer­e­mony of in­no­cence is drowned; The best lack all con­vic­tion, while the worst Are full of pas­sion­ate in­ten­sity. Strug­gling with this loss of moral bear­ings, Yeats took from the Chris­tian tra­di­tion the idea of the sec­ond com­ing – the time when Christ will come again to set things right and bring about the reign of God.

In Chris­tian be­lief, this forms a hori­zon of hope. In the af­ter­math of the Great War, Yeats lacked such con­fi­dence. He could only ask, with fore­bod­ing: ‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches to­wards Beth­le­hem to be born?’

Af­ter 100 years, where are we? Is the fal­con able to hear the fal­coner? Is the cen­tre able to hold? As we re­flect on the sac­ri­fice made on our be­half by those who gave their lives in time of war, what will we make of the peace and free­dom they be­queathed to us?

The Bi­ble recog­nises times of turmoil when it is hard to find our bear­ings. But it points us to a cen­tre that can hold. As generations of Scots have sung, in the met­ri­cal ver­sion of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and our strength. in straits a present aid; there­fore, al­though the earth be moved we will not be afraid.

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