Slight consolation in proud grief

A war memorial was unveiled in Ascot.

November 21st made up for two previous disappointments, and the presence of the Diocesan Bishop amongst us for his first visit to South Ascot gave additional pleasure to some old friends. He expressed his admiration more than once for our beautiful church… For the latest addition to our prized possessions – the Churchyard Crucifix erected by the relations of those from All Souls’ who gave their lives in the great war – he expressed his delight and cordial approval.

A full and visibly impressed congregation assembled for the Dedication, and the service had a pathos and dignity which will not readily be forgotten. The music was mainly composed for the occasion by Mr D Clarke, and much of the well-timed conduct of the service was due to his careful training of the choir. The memorial represents in England the last resting place of our dear lads whose bodies lie, known or unknown, in France or elsewhere. As such it will command at least the same reverence as is claimed for the Cenotaph in Whitehall. But our Cenotaph here has another and more cogent reason for reverence. It is crowned by the Symbol of the World’s Greatest Sacrifice. We have dared to place That there because we believe that there is some parallel, however distant, between the Son of God’s Redeeming Sacrifice and the sacrifice made by our men. “In that Broken Body,” as the Bishop said in his address, “there is a likeness to which any human sacrifice of life willingly made does approximate”. It is quite true that no such claim would ever be advanced by our heroes, and it might be equally true that such a thought did never occur to them. But it is as we meditate over their accepted offering that we trace reverently a parallel which makes nothing less than the Crucifix an adequate memorial.

But the memorial has a value apart from its immediate purpose. It is a silent witness to the passer-by of his one hope of salvation. “In Cruce Salus” (in the Cross lies our safety) is a truth which all men need to recollect, and here in South Ascot its truth is driven home by the presence of the Figure which gives to the cross its meaning and its power. And the passer-by will make his act of thankfulness not merely to the memory of valiant hearts which bled for England, but to the Redeemer Who died for him. Surely it will preach many a sermon to those whom sermons do not reach, and keep them in mind how much they need the Redeemer’s Sacrifice.

And the observer will notice that it is no figure of a Dead Christ which hangs there. It is Christ hanging from the Tree. The Sacred Eyes are resting in tender sympathy upon the tomb beneath. He watches over their emblematical resting place. Under His protection they rest in peace with the promise of His presence to give them refreshment in Paradise. And not to them only, but also to all who sleep or shall sleep in our graveyard under the shadow of the great Christ, is this sense of guardianship given…

The Figure of the Christ has been carved out of oak known to be 150 years old, and the colour is natural. The carver, Mr Peacock, was sent a copy of the war picture the “Great Sacrifice” for his model. He has faithfully reproduced the effect which was wished, and as a work of art it leaves nothing to be desired. The lettering was carried out by Mr Bannister and is well executed. The masonry is solid and carefully laid. Messrs Bowman’s workmen took obvious interest in the work. For the Service itself it is difficult to single out individuals for our thanks, for all deserve them. From churchwardens to the smallest choir boy, all endtered into the spirit of the day. A special word of thanks is however due to Mr Jenkins, not merely for his help given on the day, but for help during the difficult erection of the Cross, and also to Mrs Browning for her work, constantly undone, in getting the church ready, and to Mrs Keating for her gift of the flowers used for the altars.

All who care for All Souls must feel profoundly grateful to the donors of the Crucifix. It cannot but strengthen the bonds which bind us to our beautiful church. The Mourners too must have felt the deep sympathy which prevailed for them in their proud grief. Perhaps it may have been some slight consolation…

South Ascot Parochial magazine, December 1919 (D/P186/28A/19)

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