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Prayer on the 100th Anniversary of the Death of George Washington, by Rabbi Edward N. Calisch (1899)


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O, ETERNAL Master of universal life,
with reverent gratitude to Thee
we have met to-day to commemorate
the 100th anniversary of Thy summons
of our illustrious brother.
First among our nation’s heroes he stands
as chief among the peerless few
of the world’s greatest and best.
He is the heart of our nation’s ideals.
By the throbbings of his fadeless influence,
the red life current of our holiest power
runs through the minutest capillary
of our national being.
A century has rounded out since,
in obedience to Thy call,
he was laid to rest here in his beloved Vernon.
The tide of time may ebb and flow,
the waves of the years may rise and fall again,
the gusts of passions and of strife may blow
with the flame-belching breath of war;
but, unmoved as the rock-ribbed and eternal hills,
stainless as the freshly-fallen snow,
his name is written on the hearts of his countrymen
with the pen of their unforgetting love.
He was indeed one of the judges
raised by Thy hand for his people.
Not alone with the mastery of war didst Thou endow him,
nor alone with the power of supreme leadership,
but with the more generous gift of moral heroism.
In the men of his own and succeeding generations
his personality created a sentiment
that was too deep for cheers or pomp or pageantry.
He touched their heart-strings
till they gave forth the silent melody of tears
and the pean of fervent prayer.
Thou didst render him childless,
that he might be father of us all.
His genius and his heroism rendered possible
the birth of our nation,
and at his death he bequeathed to us forevermore
the splendor of his virile manhood
and the heritage of his consummate character.
And now, O God,
as to-day we speak with glowing ardor
of the greatness of our country,
of the proud position it holds
among the nations of the earth,
while we glory in its power,
that has spread o’er the seas and the islands thereof;
while we are jubilant over each new star added to our flag;
while we see that our country is the haven for the storm-tossed of the earth;
while we remember, with swelling hearts,
that ours is the ideal of human government,
where liberty is enthroned in dazzling and unquenchable beauty,
where, under Thy guidance we have become
the avenging sword of justice,
the champions of freedom
to the uttermost ends of the earth,
let us never forget
that we have built upon the foundation
laid down by his hands
working out Thy plans,
as drawn upon the trestle-board of history.
By the enduring power of righteousness
he bedded the foundation-stones of our republic;
with the trowel of trust he wrought,
cementing them with the tempered mortar of love;
he measured them with the compass of pure and holy purpose;
he set them with the square of honor
and the level of loyal and patriotic ideas,
but, above all he sustained and supported them
by an unwavering faith in Thee, O Great Author of our life.
And thus sustained and supported, our republic,
like the noble order that has gathered to-day,
shall last as long as the sun shall rise—
rise to gild its cloud-capped towers,
or the moon lead on the night
to illumine its starry-decked canopy.
Be this day and hour a blessing unto us;
be it, too, an impulse unto us for holy action,
guided by Thee.
Do Thou let the seal of Thy approval
close our reverent commemoration,
to render it forever acceptable in Thy sight.

This “Washington Anniversary Prayer” was offered by Rabbi Edward Nathan Calisch during the Masonic ceremonies at Mt. Vernon, 18 December 1899, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s death. Rabbi Calisch published it in his autobiography, Three Score and Twenty (1945), pp. 47-48.




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