Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saint Martin and Beggar. Cathédrale Saint Gatien. Tours.
Saint Martin of Tours was one of the empire's hereditary soldiers who saw his christian mission as incompatible with military service. His father being a military tribune, he was impressed by law to be a soldier. He was named after Mars, the god of war. As a catechumen in Gaul he encountered a half naked, shivering beggar at the gates of Amiens. He divided his cloak in twain, for both himself and the other.
Before Worms he declared, "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight." He was charged with cowardice and jailed. He offered to go to the front line unarmed. The battle was not fought and he was freed from military service.
He became a disciple of the bishop of Poitiers, Hilary. Later he became a monk and later the bishop of Tours. His legend grew as a miracle worker, he became a most beloved saint of the french. The basilica that held his body and relics became a pilgrimage site.
He became a patron of France and his rent mantle covered Gaul. Between Tours and Poitiers the mohammedans were stopped in 732/3. In 1562 the protestants attacked and destroyed his relics and sepulcher. In 1793 the excess of the revolution attacked the rebuilt building and made the spot road.
When the germanic armies invaded during the Great War and corpses by the million piled upon each other, the firing and killing in arms ceased on his day at the eleventh hour, the eleventh day, the eleventh month. Saint Martin was celebrated as exemplar and friend, his charity still invites, for all the saints within heaven care for us.
The armistice, the stopping of arms, began a truce that ended the hostilities in the west. The war to end all wars, did not. The name was changed so that the public would not celebrate the cessation of arms. Among the anglais, the emphasis was on remembrance of the fallen, which could include all the fallen, that is, the civilian and the enemy also, but emphasis is falling on the most recent military dead. In the US, it was changed to a celebration of veterans to inculcate a perpetual flow of veterans.
The red poppy, whose seeds were spread among the grain fields blooming amongst the buried dead became a floral remembrance. We have McCrae's verse to call us out in rhyme and meter the cadence that reforms the men to rank and file. Some people would wear white poppies to remember the innocent, but this is greeted with bellicosity by some; non-combatants do not matter and should not be spoken of.
Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) by Erich Maria Remarque tells the story of stalemate that split and spilt the turf with blood and mud. The hero is killed in October 1918 and the daily report is given with a routine, deadpan non-descript delivery...