The Vault

From the Vault: Christ in Flanders

The following piece appeared in The Church Record on April 28, 1916 (the year that Anzac Day was officially named).

It looks like it has been re-published from September 1915, and although the author is not named, it’s written from the perspective of a soldier who on behalf of his fellow-soldiers, laments their collective ignoring of Jesus pre-war, recognises that Jesus was indeed with them through the horror in the trenches, and pleads with Jesus to pardon them, to give them courage, to stay with them, to not forget them, though they forget Him.

On a day when we are still, over a hundred years later, (rightly) reminding one another to not forget, it’s striking that this author is confident that Jesus will not forget us. We don’t deserve to be remembered by Jesus, but for those who ‘ask for pardon’, he promises Paradise (Luke 23:42-43).

Christ in Flanders

We had forgotten You, or very nearly–

You did not seem to touch us very nearly

Of course we thought about You now and


Especially in any time of trouble–

We knew that You were good in time of


But we are very ordinary men.

And there were always other things to think


There’s lots of things a man has got to

think of–

His work, his home, his pleasure, and his


And so we only thought of You on Sunday;

Sometimes, perhaps, not even on a Sunday,

Because there’s always lots to fill one’s life.

And all the while in street or lane or by-


In country lane, in city street, or by-way–

You walked among us, and we did not see

Your feet were bleeding as You walked our


How did we miss Your footprints on our


Can there be other folk as blind as we?

Now, we remember, over here in Flanders–

(It isn’t strange to think of You in Flan-


This hideous warfare seems to make things


We never thought about You much in Eng-


But now that we are far away from Eng-


We have no doubts, we know that You are


You helped to pass the jest along the


Where in cold blood we waited in the


You touched its ribaldry and made it fine.

You stood beside us in our pain and weak-


We’re glad to think You understand our


Somehow, it seems to help us not to whine.

We think about you kneeling in the garden–

Oh, God! the agony of that dread garden–

We know You prayed for us upon the Cross.

If anything could make us glad to bear it–

’Twould be the knowledge that You willed

to bear it–

Pain, death, the uttermost of human loss.

Though we forget You, You will not forget


We feel so sure that You will not forget us–

But stay with us until this dream is past,

And so we ask for courage, strength, and


Especially, I think, we ask for pardon–

And that You’ll stand beside us to the last.

From the “Spectator” of September 8, 1915.