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Prayers for Canada 150

Web posted on June 25, 2017

Hey Jude!

With our sesquicentennial just days away, I'd like to consider some important monuments of Canadian spirituality, one of them literally carved in stone.

On a marble wall inside the Peace Tower, there's a quotation from Proverbs 29:18 that says: "WHERE THERE IS NO VISION, THE PEOPLE PERISH." Our parliamentarians walk past that inscription every day. Pray that they may understand it and take it to heart.

That proverb is not about planning and goal setting. The ancient writer had never heard of the "visioning process" that's taught these days in management courses. The vision that he had in mind was prophetic vision - divine revelation - insight given by God. In his view, there really was - is - such a thing as a word from God, a written word that guides and admonishes.

A modern translation of the proverb in its complete form makes the writer's meaning clear: "Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the Torah." Keep the Torah, or cast off restraint and perish. That's the unheeded writing on the wall.

Or consider our heraldic symbol, the Arms of Her Majesty in Right of Canada, a.k.a. the Canadian Coat of Arms.

Since 1921 the banner at the bottom has read A MARI USQUE AD MARE "from sea to sea". It's a quotation from Psalm 72:8, which was an enthronement psalm for the kings of ancient Israel, and looked forward to the future reign of the Messianic King. The complete verse says: "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river [the Euphrates] to the ends of the earth."

At Confederation, Sir Leonard Tilley proposed that the new nation should be called "The Dominion of Canada" after he came across this verse during his daily Bible reading. Half a century later, Sir Joseph Pope proposed that the nation's motto be adopted from this same verse. Both men envisioned a Canada that is, as the Charter says, "founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law".

In the words "the supremacy of God and the rule of law", the sequence is not accidental. The supremacy of God comes first, and our laws must reflect that supremacy. Whenever we make laws that do otherwise - and we have certainly done so of late - we "cast off restraint" and hasten the day when "the people perish." Pray that the starting point for those who make our laws may be the supremacy of God and the wisdom of Torah. Pray that God's Messianic king may have dominion in this Dominion from sea to sea to sea. And some day even to the ends of the earth.

In 1994, the Arms of Canada were augmented with a circular ribbon around the shield. The ribbon displays the motto of the Order of Canada: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM. That's a paraphrase back into Latin of the English words from Hebrews 11:16 the New Testament: "They desire a better country".

It's a great motto, not only the Order of Canada but also for the rest of us, because we all desire a better country. But worthy as that desire is, it's not what the ancient writer was referring to. He was writing about men and women who were driven by faith, who were motivated not only by things of this world but also by things beyond. The verse from which the motto is borrowed says: "They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one." Pray that Canadians and their legislators may also be driven by such faith.

The most explicit monument of Canadian spirituality is our National Anthem, written in 1880 by the brilliant Franco-Canadien musician Calixa Lavallee. Lavallee gets no prizes for modern political correctness, but his anthem shows a spiritual wisdom that Canadians need to recover and rediscover. Here, with my translation, is what he wrote:

O Canada! Terre de nos aieux,
(O Canada! Land of our ancestors,)
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.
(Your brow is wreathed with garlands of glory.)
Car ton bras sait porter l'epee;
(For your arm knows how to bear the sword;)
Il sait porter la croix.
(It [also] knows how to bear the cross.)
Ton histoire est une epopee des plus brillants exploits.
(Your history is an epic of most brilliant exploits.)
Et ta valeur, de foi trempee, protegera nos foyers et nos droits.
(And your valor, steeped in faith, will protect our homes and our rights.)

Pray for those who bear the sword, for those who protect our homes and our rights, that they may also know how to bear the cross. For when the arm that bears the sword no longer also bears the cross, and when our courage is no longer steeped in faith, we have compromised the moral authority to wield that sword, the wisdom to build those homes, and the very legitimacy of those rights.

With prayers and best wishes for a blessed 150 and beyond!

Rev Robert Lyon is the assistant at St. Jude, Guelph, a congregation of the Anglican Network in Canada. Robert welcomes your questions and comments, and will be pleased to discuss topics on request. Contact him at

Next Sunday, to commemorate Canada Day 150, the congregation will celebrate communion with the 1662 Anglican liturgy that was in use at Confederation. St Jude Guelph meets at The Evergreen Centre, beside Riverside Park, on Sundays at 10:00. Please join us.