Memorial Day and the Mass

We cherish too, the poppy red, that grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.
But lends a luster to the red of the flow that blooms above the dead.

From We Shall Keep the Faith by Moina Michael, 1918

Red poppies growing among the ruins in Ancient Ephesus

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day (stemming from the practice of decorating grave sites), is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official United States holiday in 1971.

Many observe Memorial Day by flying flags, visiting cemeteries, attending a special Mass (our Bishop celebrates one annually at a local cemetery), holding picnics, or walking in parades.

We celebrate many of these activities in community.

We could just keep this all to ourselves, sitting in the quiet of our homes reflecting on the meaning of this day and thinking fondly of those we’ve lost. Certainly, we do that in our private moments, but it seems we are made to celebrate in community.

When we remember together, it takes on a different character. Rather than simply recalling the past, this communal remembrance brings the sacrifice of those who have given their lives for our freedom into the present day. Further, it somehow becomes eternally present when we gather to remember.

Does any of this sound familiar? Substitute Jesus for the person(s) you remember today, and this is the essence of the sacred Eucharist.

As Dr. Edward Sri states in his book, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, “In Scripture, a memorial does not merely recall a past event. It makes that event present. Therefore, when Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ he was commanding the apostles to make present as a biblical memorial the sacrificial offering of his body and blood at the Last Supper.”

As we choose to celebrate Memorial Day in our way here in the United States, bear in mind we eternally celebrate “Memorial Day” every time we celebrate the Mass.

Question: How are you celebrating the Memorial Day holiday? Visiting and decorating a grave site? Attending Mass? Gathering with family? Perhaps you are working (and thank you if you are!). Click here to leave your comment. 

Wherever your plans may lead you today, may it be blessed.

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