The author, Milan Kundera, once described the struggle of humanity against tyranny as, “the struggle of memory against forgetting”. Keeping our individual and collective memory alive is part of the essence of human culture because forgetting our past means dying to our humanity.
Every nation, family and individual must remember the important events which have shaped them. This is especially poignant for us this weekend when we remember our ANZAC soldiers who fought in the Boer War in South Africa in the late 19th century, in WWI, in WWII and in subsequent wars.
Remembering creates our identity. In a sense we become what we remember.
But what to remember and what to forget? Some would say that remembering horrible things from the past has the potential to re-traumatise us. Some events, when worked through, need to be released and let go of in order to set us free and help us move on. Some things need to be remembered for ever.
As Australians, one of the things we have to remember is the enormous sacrifice carried out by so many young Australians who went off to the battlefields in WWI and in other wars; so many never returned and those who did return were often impacted for life by the violence and horror they had experienced. It left a deep scar on the Australian soul; hence the reason why ANZAC memorials have been erected in most towns throughout our land.
Many students from Melbourne Grammar paid the ultimate price and died far from home. The Chapel of St Peter houses the magnificent Western Wall stained glassed windows situated above the entrance which were made and dedicated in honour of Melbourne Grammar students fighting in WWII. Several other stained glassed windows and objects in the Chapel are also dedicated to Melbourne Grammar students who died in past wars.
I am intensely aware of the many memories the Chapel of St Peter holds. It is as if the walls and windows themselves speak about our history; they speak about prayers to God and about loss and sorrow and about joy and celebrations. The Chapel draws us both inwards and outwards beyond ourselves and back in time into our shared memory; a memory of God’s presence in Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for humanity and our collective memory of the history of our community of learning and the history of our nation.
Despite our physical isolation from each other, this week and weekend we will indeed remember and pay our respects to the ANZACS; and as we do so we give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in this land.
Ora et Labora.
Rev’d Hans Christiansen