(Originally written on June 6, 2019, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Republished for Memorial Day, 2023.)
Far back in the hidden crevasses of the good ole BCP, there is an obscure and little known gem of a prayer under “Thanksgivings for National Life.” I “just happened” to discover it this morning. While I think that it should be front and center every day, it is especially fitting on days like today:
For Heroic Service. O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Normally, such a collect would totally escape my attention, but blessfully, at a small Eucharist I sometimes – but don’t always – attend on Thursday morning, the Celebrant today decided that we should offer the Thanksgiving “For the Nation” on page 838 as our “Prayers of the People.” And it was lovely. But it was the thanksgiving prayer right after that — the one above, that appears on page 839 — that caught my eye.
It was exactly 75 years ago today of course that 150,000 allied fighters from the United States, England and Canada began their “D-Day” assault on the beaches of Normandy, France for the liberation of Europe in World War II.
It’s so strange how Grace works sometimes. I came so close to sleeping in this morning. I came so close to passing by the church because traffic (and my slowness) caused me to be a few minutes late (and I hate going in late). I came so close to just closing the Prayer Book after we finished the Thanksgiving Prayer “For the Nation” and not glancing at the prayer that came next.
But I didn’t. And as a result, a profound gift was received.
Now all of these “near misses” could absolutely be mere happenstance — a mundane, random-as-rain coincidence of chance, as if I flipped coins all along the way. I am too much a seasoned and cynical trial lawyer not to note the substantial evidence of that very plausible possibility.
And yet it did happen. I did not sleep in, I did not pass by, I did not just go on immediately to the next page. I did notice.
And I was graciously exalted by the richness of those words and a “grateful heart” indeed for the thousands who sacrificed their young lives on their “day of decision” on another June 6 morning, three-quarters of a century ago.
That gratitude extends as well for such small moments of “coincidence” that keep pulling me back to the Mystery.