Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
"The Glorious Dead", as we are pleased to call the men who died in war to save our native land from some external threat or danger, have been well remembered in the words we say of them, the stones we raise in sad commemoration and the plans we form to stop the holocaust descending on our heads once more. This has been so since Pericles memorialized the men who died for Ancient Greece. In modern times we see the sentiment preserved in the immortal "Ode" of Laurence Binyon, in the haunting words upon the Edinburgh War Memorial and in the legend at the entrance to our own Masonic Centre.

Freemasonry has ever been a peaceful art. It suffers in the great debilitating wars that sweep across the land, but then again, it helps to heal the bleeding wounds of conflict and rebuild a better world. This peacefulness is not derived from weakness. The legends of the craft include such hostile confrontations as the slaughter of the hapless Ephraimites, the victory at Rephidim, deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea crossing and the Noble Architect defying his assassins to maintain his trust. It rather comes from Masonry's espousal of the brotherhood of all men and the knowledge that their conflict is a civil war within the human race. Men facing fear and death are often drawn together in a union which is closer to the spirit of the craft than any other institution in society.

The ending of the war in 1918 was, for many years, observed as "Armistice Day". "Armistice", though meaning "the cessation of hostilities", can also be defined as "a short truce". In 1939 the conflict raged again. The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse went riding through the world once more. We still observe the day, but now we know it as "Remembrance Day" ‑ lest we forget how dearly peace was bought.

So many orators have spoken of the dead. So many authors have enshrined their sacrifice. in living words. So many human lives have never been the same because of some "rich earth" in battlefields beyond the seas. What more is there that we can say or do to honour them?

With this incapability in mind, we came upon a plaque included in a family group of graves in an historic Sydney church yard. It read: "Deo patriae tibi" with the bare initials of one member of the family. The impact of these three short words (translated "For God, for my country and for you") embraces all the vast array of grateful and respectful sentiment that has been uttered down the years since man first went to war. "For God" declared the fallen soldier's faith. It was the answer to a moral question. "For my country" proclaimed the hope he bore for his own native land. This was the answer to a civic question. "For you" affirmed the charity or love he had for other men. It was the answer to a personal question. This question with the threefold answer might quite well have been, "Why did you die?" The answers may be on the stone, but all the ordinary soldier realises is that he must "do the job" before him and "stick by his mates".

We can say nothing more than this. We can say nothing better. We can only pause upon Remembrance Day and think of these few words that tell us everything.