Belfast Telegraph

Thought for the weekend: A message from the tomb

By Rev Gareth Burke

During this past week we have been hearing a great deal about the First World War. Last Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the 'war to end all wars' on August 4, 1914.

Numerous poems, letters and diary entries from the men who served on the Western Front have been broadcast as well as coverage of the services of national remembrance and reflection.

One of the most fascinating pieces of information to have emerged from all the coverage has been the detail surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

It appears that the body of an unknown soldier was transported from France and buried in the West Nave of the Abbey on Armistice Day 1920.

As the casket was carried into the abbey it was accompanied by royalty and leading politicians.

However, there was also a group of about one hundred women in the burial procession. They were women who had lost their husbands and all their sons in the conflict. The grave was filled with one hundred sandbags of soils selected from various French battlefields.

A slab of black Belgian marble was placed upon the tomb and instructions given that on no occasion – including Royal weddings – was any red carpet to cover the tomb nor was anyone to walk over it.

The inscription upon the tomb was composed by the Dean of Westminster, Herbert Ryle (son of the famous evangelical bishop J C Ryle).

It begins –

'Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior

Unknown by name or rank

Brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land'.

The text of scripture at the top of marble tombstone reads: 'The Lord knoweth them that are His'. Dean Ryle made a great choice by adding these words from 2 Timothy 2:19 to the inscription.

Lying in this grave is the body of a soldier whose name and details are not known to anyone. But we are not anonymous to God. If we have faith In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, he not only knows all about us but he will be with us throughout every situation.

Ultimately, when the moment comes for us to leave this scene of time, he'll be with us to guide us over into the glory of heaven.

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