By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
Sometimes, all it takes is a single word to generate a moment of reflection or insight. A single word, with its own meaning and power may not only begin a train of thought, but also lead to transformative action.
In his recent address to our Canadian Parliament, Ukraine’s President Zelensky reflected on his conversation with our Governor General. He shared the insight which Her Excellency had offered from her own life experience in the North as she taught him the Inuktitut word, ”Ajuinnata”.
There is no single word translation, but the word offers a message of encouragement and perseverance against whatever challenges are being faced at the moment. President Zelensky immediately applied the word to his own situation of leadership against a challenging foe. He concluded his speech by saying, ”Don’t give up, stay strong against all odds, and so it shall be, Ajuinnata, Canada. Ajuinnata, Ukraine.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu provided significant insight as he reflected on the way in which we relate to each other as human beings. He used the word ”ubuntu” from the Zulu and Xhola languages to convey a simple concept that, in essence, means, “ I am because you are.”. He made the point that human beings have their lives enhanced by the relationships which we have with each other.
Another word which generates its own sense of emotion is the word “Remember“. For some, this is a very personal word as an individual or a moment comes immediately to mind. Our ability to remember, or not, impacts on how we are able to relate to others. Our short or long term ability to remember, dictates the way in which we are able to function as members of society. Not being able to remember, may lead to significant life changes, if it is deemed that we are not able to remember how to even care for ourselves.
In a larger use of the word “Remember”, during the month of November, all across Canada, citizens will gather for a time of Remembrance. Memorials placed at the heart of communities will provide a focal point for those gatherings. Etched onto those memorials may be the names of individuals whose lives were lost as they served in the Canadian Armed Forces in times of war. For families, that sense of loss will be very personal as the sound of bagpipes and the trumpet notes of the Last Post and Reveille break the ceremonial silence. Communities will reflect on how the sacrifices which have been made over the years have set the framework of freedom which shapes our day to day lives.
It has been said that memories may differ. Our experience of a person or a moment may impact our lives in different ways. The memory of a moment may be shaped by whether or not we were actually present for an event.
As we may no longer be able to identify any veterans of the First World War in the crowd on November 11, so too the list of veterans from the Second World War and the Korean Conflict is getting smaller. At the same time we are called upon to focus our remembrance on experiences which were lived through by previous generations and are removed from our own experiences.
In recent days, the sense of community loss may be felt with a different level of intensity as we reflect on the loss of members of members of the RCMP when they are killed in the line of duty. Our sense of community loss may resonate with the news of the deaths of firefighters who serve on the front lines facing the wildfires which are ravaging the Canadian wilderness.
Our National Day of Truth and Reconciliation is a moment for us all to be aware of the impact of history on our lives. The actions of others in years gone by have left lasting and indelible marks in the lives of families and communities. Building bridges of trust has become the work of our generation. Remembering the events of the past may create hurdles in that process of rebuilding trust.
In the midst of the whirlwind of life that we face, as people of faith, we gather around a table to be nurtured and fed as we respond to a Divine directive. “Do this in remembrance of Me”.
Those words of Jesus take us to a moment in time when Jesus gathers his friends around him and uses the history laden rituals of Passover to raise their vision to a new covenant between God and God’s people.
It is a Covenant which is sealed in sacrifice and offers a light of hope and the healing balm of forgiveness to the sinful and broken.
We are called to live our lives in relationship with others and with our God.
We are called to step out in faith as we meet the challenges of life.
We are called to be mindful of the sacrifices which have been made for us.
Words to live by.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full-time parish ministry but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.