This weekend throughout the entire country we observe Memorial Day, a federal holiday that was originally created as a day for remembering and honoring those who fought and died in the Civil war. Later on it was expanded to include those who died in all of the wars in which the United States was involved. While many people see this holiday as a day off from work to relax and enjoy their families and do some shopping, the true purpose of the day is to take time to remember and reflect upon the lives of those who have died while serving to protect and defend our way of life.
While this American holiday was created about 150 years ago, the idea of taking time to honor and remember those who have died is something that the Orthodox Church has been doing for centuries. And to this day, on almost every Sunday in every Orthodox Church, there is a memorial service to pray for and remember one or more loved ones who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
This Memorial Day weekend, I would like reflect upon the importance of remembering those who have sacrificed for us and those who have had an impact upon on our lives and have since passed away.
It’s important to take time and remember those who have died because it is the way that we keep them alive within our hearts. By remembering, we keep alive their faith, their hope, their love for us and our love for them. As we take time and think about them, they once again inspire and motive us in the same way that they did before they passed away. For me personally, when I think of my mother, who passed away over 20 years ago, her faith, her devotion to her children and her strength are still very much alive and they continue to inspire and guide me in the way I try to live.
And still another reason it is important to remember those who have passed away is because their death makes us think about our own death. It reminds us that we too have a limited time upon this earth and that we should use it wisely.
As we think about the lives of those who have passed away and about what they have accomplished and how they have influenced us, it also makes us think about what we are doing and what we hope to accomplish in our own life. And it reminds us that our actions have an impact on the lives of those who look up to us and that one day, when we are gone, our loved ones will be thinking about us. What is it that they will think and what is it that they will have learned from the way that we have lived? Something to think about as we decide what we are doing with our lives.
And as we struggle to figure out what our life is all about, it’s important to know that each of us has work which God calls us to do and that He has put us upon this earth to accomplish it.
One of the desert fathers, Abba Nistheros, once said:
“The good Christian must take account of himself morning and evening and say: ‘What, from all that God desires, did I do, and what did I neglect to do?’ Only in this manner will one succeed in conducting himself in accordance with the will of God.”
While most of us will not accomplish anything worthy of being published in a history book, it does not mean that our life is unimportant. Our lives have great meaning and are very important to our family, to our loved ones and to God. As we reflect upon the lives of those whom we have lost, I think we will find that what we remember most about them are the things which have touched our hearts.
Our acts of love, kindness, compassion, mercy and forgiveness are eternal; they live within the hearts of those who receive them, even long after we are gone. And while these acts of love may seem small in the eyes of the world, they are seen as great in the eyes of God.
As we take time this weekend to remember and honor those who have sacrificed for us and have died, we should also remember and give thanks to Christ our God for this great gift of life and for the great sacrifice that He has made for all of us.