Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Innocents' Day

The Massacre of the Holy Innocents

"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, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

'A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more'" (Matt. 2:16-18)

The last verse of this passage from St. Matthew's Gospel is Jeremiah 31:15, a passage in which the prophet foresees the restoration Israel, which will be celebrated with great rejoicing. Nonetheless, Rachel, the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph, mourns her children who are no more. This lamentation is a fitting response to Herod's ruthless slaughter of innocents. It applies to us today. As Peter Hitchens wrote last year about the Feast of the Holy Innocents: "I hope as many of you as possible will recall with sorrow the continuing massacre of innocent unborn babies, our society’s greatest and deepest shame, and the one of which it most hates to be reminded."

On a much lighter note, just as the Feast of St. Stephen is a day for deacons and the Feast of St. John the Apostle a day for priests, the Feast of the Holy Innocents is a day for altar servers. Yet, in recent years and to the Church's great shame, there remains some shame borne of guilt surrounding these things as well. In March 2010, the Movement of Communion & Liberation asked, "Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil?" At Christmas we celebrate the coming into the world of the One who is greater than...

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