Ottawa’s eternal flame is surrounded by the crests of every province and territory and in the shadow of the Peace Tower, burning on for the unity of a huge and diverse nation. Photo by Michael Swan

Incarnate Canada – discover our nation of faith

  • June 29, 2017

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has looked favourably on His people and redeemed them.”

The words belong to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, and he was talking about ancient Israel and not modern Canada. Nevertheless, parallels exist.

Through the centuries, there have been many who wanted to declare their country the new Jerusalem or the true Israel. The doctrine has been used for centuries to justify colonialism, crazy wars and adventuring armies.

For 150 years (and more) Canada has been the colony and the colonizer. We have done our share of exploitation with this part of the planet, while also nurturing a sense of awe and wonder at all this rich and dangerous landscape. We have stood on guard for ideals – from Pierre Trudeau’s “just society” to Gordon Lightfoot’s “green dark forest, too silent to be real” and even Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier’s French version of O Canada declaring Canadians as a people willing to “carry the cross.”

We rarely deny the ways we have fallen short of the ideals, but the truth about this country is deeper than our sins.

The truth about Canada is the truth of the incarnation. God is here, in the flesh, among us despite our reluctance to believe.

As the bishops collectively reconsecrate this nation to Mary on July 1, they entrust us to a mother who is also the Theotokos – “God carrier.” The act isn’t sentimental or nostalgic. When we claim Mary we claim the concrete and deeply human reality of Christ, who was born from her womb to redeem us here and now in our world.

To travel in Canada is to discover yourself in the world which Christ has redeemed. From the Great Lakes to the high Arctic, this country encompasses an enormous slice of creation.

In his song of celebration for both his son and for the coming incarnation of God, Zechariah heralds God’s constant offer of communion.

With his son John the Baptist in his arms, Zechariah recognized “the mercy promised to our ancestors… to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Zechariah addresses his son and all of us, Christ’s cousins through the centuries:

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High. For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins, by the tender mercy of our God.”

There is no photographer alive who can capture capture God’s mercy in the landscape of any country. But I have been lucky enough to be there when this land has whispered hints of communion and mercy into my camera. From sea to sea to sea, here is where in Canada I have witnessed God’s great invitation.

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