July the 4th: Illuminating Independence

The flag of the United States adorns a small flower arrangement in my dining room and bits of red, white, and blue are to be seen inside and outside my house. I may even have an illumination or two. But these things are only the outward symbol of 200+ years of American history and the quest for freedom that began when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776.

We celebrate the 4th day of July and not the 2nd, but as you’ll read in the following quote* written by John Adams (yes, him again) to his wife Abigail the vision for an expansive future was there from the earliest days of the Republic:

“But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. — I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in the Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

The line, “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty,” always stands out in my mind. How often do we hear the words “solemnity” and “God Almighty” attached to 4th of July celebrations? Fireworks, yes, solemnity, not so much.

But think about the cost of human lives it has taken to maintain this country and its freedoms from the first days of the Revolution to the lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan just recently. Not to mention the support crews on the home soil that built the boats, planes, jeeps, tanks, weapons, and other ordnance that saw us through WWII as well as every other major war? Their memory deserves more than a few moments of solemnity in the presence of God Almighty.

“Rays of Ravishing Light and Glory,” – I love these words because not only to they refer to the illuminations that we are so used to seeing on Independence Day, but they also describe the hope of opportunity, freedom of religion, and peaceful existence that America has promised to generations of immigrants from the earliest English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, German, Dutch, Spanish, and French settlers to those who still, with patience, go through all the red tape and hassle it takes to become a legally invested American citizen.

Happy 4th of July! May you see the Rays of Ravishing Light and Glory and may your 4th be solemnized by acts of Devotion to God Almighty!

– Amanda Stiver

*All quotes fromĀ Our Sacred Honor: Words of Advice from the Founders in Stories, Letters, Poems, and Speeches edited by William J. Bennett