December 28, 2017
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. . . . When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, Mt_2:13-18
On this fourth day of the Christmas Octave, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, or Childermas, because from ages past, and even for us, this day is a stark reminder of God’s wonderful blessings of children.
This song is called The Coventry Carol. It was a piece that came from a 16th Century, English, Christmas play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors” The song itself represents a mourning lullaby – sung by the mothers of the children lost in Herod’s massacre.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that song a thousand times, but never connected it with the Feast day that we celebrate today. And you know, the word “celebrate,” itself, is hard to associate with such a dreadful event.
Yet, it was a glorious victory for Jesus. For while Herod, in his greed and insecurity, was determined to destroy whatever and whoever – he perceived as a threat to his power, including his own wife and children, God, in His might and wisdom, provided a safe exit for Jesus and for the magi, and a Glorious entrance for these young, innocent, helpless, martyred children – into the paradise of Heaven.
St. Augustine called these young martyrs “the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; where they died not only for Christ, but in his stead.” (St. Aug., “Sermo 10us de sanctis”).
It’s almost hard to imagine such extreme insecurity on the part of Herod to take the lives of little children. But on the other hand, people do it every day in our own culture – through abortion, genocide, starvation, war, and the slavery of human trafficking.
It all gives us pause to recognize the incredible blessings children bring to us, and how vitally important we are in setting the example of Christ’s Love for them.
St. John, whose Feast Day we celebrated yesterday, reminds us over and over again, about the caution we must always take when sin is knocking at our door. And it takes very little – to physically or psychologically scar a child for life.
If we can exchange every evil thought, every hint of hatred, or anger, or jealousy, or insecurity with an outpouring of God’s love, beloved, just imagine the difference it could make in our families, in our workplaces, and in our world.
And it all begins with the little children.
St. Ambrose said, “You may not be rich; you may be unable to bequeath great possessions to your children; but one thing you can give them is the heritage of your blessing.”
At every opportunity, beloved, with every child we see, we should be praying for and blessing them – because the world they’re entering will not be an easy one.
Let us pray,
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy, all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen
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