On July 1st, my husband and I are planning to drive his restored 64 Valiant to a Show and Shine in Red Deer. It is particularly exciting to participate in this year’s car show since my husband made a point of creating the interior and overall “theme” of the car to honour Canada. It is fitting on Canada’s Birthday to drive the “Canada Car” and enjoy the ride. From the little Maple leaves embroidered into the upholstery to the illuminated license plate that flashes “Maple Leaf Forever” whenever the brakes are applied, it truly is a cool car.
That said, I will miss seeing the celebrations from Parliament Hill on T.V. I enjoy watching the festivities each year and I am always moved to tears when our National Anthem is sung. It is interesting that in a country that prides itself on its multiculturalism and diversity of religion that at least when we sing “O Canada” (Canada’s National Anthem), we remember Who brought us together as a nation. Sure, many have sought to remove “God” from our anthem; the ongoing battle of separating church from state continues, but on Canada Day that is all but forgotten. We sing the words with passion and with national fervor!
As I watch the thousands and thousands of people singing ‘O Canada’ on Parliament Hill in front of the Peace Tower, I can’t help but liken the scene to the one described in Philippians, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (vs. 9-11). It is a prayer and a promise. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
I wonder if we Canadians who sing the National Anthem even realize that we sing a prayer to the Father with these words: “God keep our land glorious and free!” It is impossible to separate church from state when we implore the God of the Universe to “keep” our land glorious and free!
I am always taken aback when I see people stand to sing our National Anthem at sporting events, beers in hand, some of them, and belt out the lyrics at the beginning of a game calling upon God to bless our Nation when later they are calling fire and damnation upon a referee when he makes an unpopular call. Does God listen to those prayers?
‘O Canada’ was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem on July 1, 1980, 100 years after it was first sung on June 24, 1880. The music was composed by Calixa Lavallee, and French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Many English versions have appeared over the years in fact in 1901 a Toronto doctor; Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson penned these lyrics:
“O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold. Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross Thy children own their birth No stains thy glorious annals gloss Since valour shield thy hearth. Almighty God! On thee we call Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall, Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.”
(Notice the prayer…)
In 1908 Mercy E Powell McCulloch won a competition with these lyrics to go with Lavallee’s music:
” O Canada! in praise of thee we sing; From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring. With fertile plains and mountains grand With lakes and rivers clear, Eternal beauty, thos dost stand Throughout the changing year. Lord God of Hosts! We now implore Bless our dear land this day and evermore, Bless our dear land this day and evermore.”
(Again, notice the prayer…)
However in 1908, the lyrics by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer in Montreal, after a few minor amendments, the first verse of Weir’s poem was finally proclaimed as the official English version of ‘O Canada’ in 1980:
“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”
I don’t know if many Canadians realize that there are several more verses to ‘O Canada’. I particularly want to draw attention to the last verse. It leaves no doubt that ‘O Canada’ is more than a national anthem; it is our nation’s heartfelt prayer to God every time we stand to sing it. Here is the original poem of 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir:
“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love thou dost in us command. We see thee rising fair, dear land, The True North, strong and free; And stand on guard, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee.
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! O Canada! We stand on guard for thee. O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow. Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow. How dear to us thy broad domain, From East to Western Sea, Thou land of hope for all who toil! Thou True North, strong and free!
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.
O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise, To keep thee steadfast through the years From East to Western Sea, Our own beloved native land! Our True North, strong and free!
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer, Hold our dominion within thy loving care; Help us to find, O God, in thee A lasting, rich reward, As waiting for the Better Day, We ever stand on guard.
Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.”