The Weeping Angel


It was ninety years ago that the the Battle of the Somme began. We are well past the days and years of those who lived to tell the tale, but the story lives on. Why does it so strongly grab our emotions and our imagination?
Several years ago, Mr. Rev. and I traveled around parts of France for two weeks for our summer vacation. Our last stop was Amiens, site of the tallest of the High Gothic cathedrals. It is an amazing edifice, different from Chartres, Notre Dame and the other prime pilgrimage cathedrals. The facade soars and has a magical glow as the sun sets on it. Inside, however, it feels dusty, because it is. Behind the altar there are several small "chapels" radiating in the apse. One of the chapels has British and American flags and Directly on the back of the altar there is the tomb of a canon named Lucas. Above the tomb is the sculpture of the "Weeping Angel."

During the first World War, the Weeping Angel became a symbol of all that befell the people of the region. The battles that took place in what now looks like beautiful rolling hills were beyond imagining. The Guardian tells us the story, yet again, of heartless and thoughtless leaders who sent soldiers to their certain deaths:

The Somme is perceived as the great betrayal of innocents - and of the old working class in khaki - by Britain's ruling caste in breeches and glossy riding boots. It is thought to exemplify the futility of the first world war, and to represent the apogee of suffering in its campaigns. Like most such national legends, it would not have survived this long if there were not some truth in it.

The BBC has also put forth it's prose on the subject and Steve Gilliard, one of my favorite web writers also chimes in.
Many years ago I drove across the US to Portland OR to serve as ministerial intern at our church there. On the way I stopped in a lot of places one of which is the Badlands in SD. It was a quiet and hot summer day as I drove through the buttes and prairie. There was an aura of profound loss hovering over the beautiful striated sandstone buttes. It was the scene of ""buffalo runs" where huge herds of buffalo were literally chased over cliffs to their deaths. The same kind of aura hangs over the hills of Gettysburg and the fields and farmland of the Somme.
The weeping angel is a symbol of profound loss that became an important icon during that horrible war being fought in the environs of the magnificent cathedral. The hebrew word for angel, malach, is also the word for messenger. You would think by now someone would have gotten the message, war is bad for people and other living things. period.