A Brief Theology of Veterans Day
This Sunday is Veterans Day, originally “Armistice Day.” On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (i.e., November 11, 1918, exactly 100 years ago this Sunday), the truce was declared that ended World War I, then known as “The Great War” and “the war to end all wars.”
“Armistice” is from the Latin arma (“arms”) and sistere (“stand still”). Imagine the stillness, the quiet that came from laying down weapons on both sides, after years of trench warfare.
The United States Congress subsequently declared that the date “should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.”
Sadly, it was not “the war to end all wars” - and so in 1954, the day was renamed, “Veterans Day” in order to honor veterans from all the wars since, not just World War I. But the words of Congress still resonate, as do the holiday’s origins in that great stillness one hundred years ago.
A day of thanksgiving: for the service of veterans, living and dead; for the service of caregivers - doctors and nurses and chaplains and mental health professionals and spouses and family members and friends - who walk with veterans through the ravages of war, even after the bullets and bombs and missiles stop flying; and for the days of peace that come at long last.
A day of prayer: for people of all faiths (or no faith at all), a time of prayer, meditation, or reflection on the stillness of armistice, so that the days of peace on Earth increase, and the days of war decrease.
A day of exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations: for all of us to find ways, large and small, to build bridges across lines of difference, suspicion, or hostility, in our neighborhoods, our country, and among the nations of the world.
To lay down our arms. To step into a new stillness together. To sing with our ancestors that we, too, will lay down our swords and shields, “down by the riverside… and study war no more” - so that the next hundred years may be more peaceful than the last.
May God’s peace be with you on this Veterans Day, this Armistice Day, and may we lay down all of our arms, all of our burdens, in God’s great Shalom rising up even now, like soldiers climbing out of trenches a century ago…
Love and peace,
The SALT Team