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O Canada We Stand on Guard for Thee.

Thus goes the refrain of the Canadian National Anthem – surely among the finest ever written, and easily sung with gusto! To my happy surprise, Heritage Canada has a rather thorough history and description:

1966 – January 31. The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, placed a notice of motion on the order paper “That the government be authorized to take such steps as may be necessary to provide that “O Canada” shall be the National Anthem of Canada while “God Save The Queen” shall be the Royal Anthem of Canada.

1967 – March 15. The special joint committee “unanimously recommends that the government be authorized to adopt forthwith the music for “O Canada” composed by Calixa Lavallée as the music of the National Anthem of Canada with the following notation added to the sheet music: With dignity, not too slowly.

“With dignity… not too slowly…” It has a nice tone to it, doesn’t it? Indeed, may we aspire to the dignity to which the anthem raises us – this is the significance of Canada Day. Once called “Dominion Day,” it is an allusion to the motto on the Canadian Coat of Arms (established 1921):


A Mari Usque Ad Mare (English: From Sea to Sea). The phrase comes from the Latin translation of Psalm 72:8 of the Bible:

“Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae.”

“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

It hearkens back to a time when Biblical passages and ethic were openly referenced to guide the nation, and to inform her laws and society.

Thus, is it any wonder that the anthem is part of a hymn?  And though it is not customary to sing all four verses of the anthem/hymn, let me draw your attention to the last verse:

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.

What does it mean to Stand On Guard?

As this last verse indicates, it means going to the Ruler Supreme in humble prayer for the nation.

It means praying to God to hold the dominion of Canada within His loving care – and that means we would not do this independently of Him.

It means finding in God – that lasting, rich reward – as waiting for a Better Day (and what could be better, as most immigrants and wise Canadian nationals have found – than the day we came to Canada or were born into her?).  As rich a reward as Canada is in itself, it is but a foretaste of that lasting rich reward to be found “in being found” by the One who made us for Himself.

It means our personal commitment and vigilance to protect and sustain the beauty of her values, the richness of her resources, the wealth of her ecosystems and economies, and the dignities of all her inhabitants and immigrants.

It means to recognize Canada as our home and native land – to have true patriot love command her peoples over and against all duelling allegiances of heritage or nations from which we escaped or emigrated; to allow ourselves to envision, with glowing hearts, Canada rising as that “True North” ethical compass check, strong for such a time as this, and free of tyrannies from within and without.

It means to recognize that though we all originate from far and wide – we are all nevertheless called to stand on guard for Canada.  Thus we sing that last refrain:

“God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.