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St Johns Southgate

10 Nov 2016

Our most sacrosanct monument

We are so very fortunate here in Southbank to be within walking distance of the Shrine of Remembrance.

The shrine has an important place in the heart of our great city and is worth a visit on any given day, but on occasions like Remembrance Day it takes on a special significance. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the crowds gather to remember those who died or suffered in historical and ongoing wars or peacekeeping operations.

Attending the Remembrance Day service is to experience something out of the ordinary. Other local mass gatherings – like the Moomba Parade that starts just a stone’s throw from the shrine itself, or the AFL Grand Final – may be a lot of fun, but they will never match the solemnity of Remembrance Day nor capture the depth of feeling evoked by visions of mass sacrifice.

Part of the horror, tragedy and just plain sadness of remembering these sacrifices is that we can actually quantify them. For instance, by the time the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 rolled around, 61,520 Australians had perished in the Great War. That’s more than five times the population of Southbank!

But behind every number lies a story, lies a person with a family, and with friends. The Shrine of Remembrance, at its very foundation testifies to this truth. Inside the sanctuary, sunken into the floor, lies the Stone of Remembrance which bears the inscription “Greater love hath no man.”

This refers to the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel according to John, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

On Remembrance Day, at precisely 11 o’clock in the morning – the moment the armistice was signed in 1918 – a ray of sunlight passes through an aperture in the ceiling of the Shrine’s sanctuary and falls on the Stone of Remembrance highlighting one word: Love.

As the jumble of thoughts and emotions ricochet around on Remembrance Day – as we try and reconcile notions of war and peace, life and death, friendship and sacrifice – having love as our touchstone is most appropriate.

We love one another in offering comfort, in the doing – not being – of friendship, in making sacrifices for the benefit of others, in abiding with each other through life and into death, and in seeking reconciliation both in and out of season.

The shrine reminds us not to simply call to mind the past on Remembrance Day, but in light of the past, to shine the light of true love in the present and into the future.

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