How cenotaph is associated with Christ – Faith and Reflection

Remembrance Day is observed annually on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, at the eleventh hour. We are invited to pause for two minutes of meaningful silence and remember those who sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom and democracy.

The Remembrance Day ritual takes place at a cenotaph. A cenotaph is a monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere. The Royal Canadian Legion has thousands of cenotaphs commemorating those who have stood and fallen in wartime and are found in most towns in Canada.

I find some interesting similarities between Remembrance Day and certain aspects of the Christian faith. One of these is the Lord’s Table. Jesus taught His disciples at the institution of the communion service to “Do this in remembrance…” In the churches I’ve pastored, we always take a couple of minutes of silence for reflection and thankfulness before we participate.

Another similarity came to mind one year, when during the Remembrance Day observation, an abridged portion of Winston Churchill’s famous August 20th, 1940 wartime speech was quoted. It was, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” (The actual statement was “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”, referring to RAF pilots) I am reminded of 1 Peter 2:6 which states that Jesus, “…gave Himself a ransom for all…”

Then there is the cenotaph itself. The word cenotaph is derived from two Greek words meaning “empty” and “tomb”; literally an empty tomb. Again the parallel is clear. In Jerusalem, there is an empty tomb that can be visited, the place where Jesus body was laid following His crucifixion.

Not to marginalize Remembrance Day or minimize those we honor on that day in any way, but these are similarities, not exact parallels. First, with respect to Jesus’ sacrifice, it is not the few for the many, but the One for the all. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Then, the cenotaph or empty tomb of Christ; it is not a monument to honor someone whose remains are buried elsewhere. It is a visible reminder that Christ defeated death and the grave by walking out of the tomb in a resurrected body.

Finally, the sacrifice of our servicemen contributed to the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy daily in this great country. The sacrifice of Christ provides forgiveness for those who believe and eternal life in a new and glorious country.

One final parallel relative to the aforementioned: both should precipitate sincere, solemn, and serious contemplation: Lest we forget!

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church

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