Wednesday 27 December 2017

Holy Innocents

Kind of pulled our celebration of extended Yule up a bit short, remembering tomorrow's saints' day.

The verses of the story of Jesus' birth voted "Most Likely to be kept out of the Nativity Play". And most likely to lead to accusations of God's capricious nature and, somewhat illogically, non-existence.

This is what happens throughout the Bible. This is what happens throughout history. The Egyptians want the Jewish babies dead. Moses gets away with it. The Hebrews destroy Jericho. But Rahab and her family are assimilated into the Hebrews; into the story of salvation. The Assyrians wipe out 11 tribes. But the Jews, and those who live with them, remain. The Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and Judah.  But a remnant returns. And Jesus re-enacts the stories of both Moses and their nation, as his family slips away.

Like those who evaded ISIS, like the Jews fleeing Hitler, like slaves on the Underground Railroad, the salvation of some is seen in the context of the suffering of so many. And the cry goes up, again and again, "How long, O Lord?"

The Holy Innocents - who never knew to choose right from wrong, who never grew to follow or reject the One who slipped away - were adopted as the earliest, youngest saints of the faith that followed him. Reflection that they suffered for Christ.

The story is not mentioned by Josephus, not mentioned outside one Gospel and the pseudo-Gospel that followed it. But that doesn't mean it didn't exist. Because in the sheer routineness of Herod's evil, one minor outrage in one little town wouldn't make much news. And five or so miles away, thirty or so years later, the death of one wannabe prophet on a cross didn't cause too much of a fuss. At the time.

So the Holy Innocents stand as a reminder of the human capacity for evil. Of the normality of viciousness, in world that has free will. Of the danger of power unchecked, and the irrational fears that power brings with it.

And that God sees it all. The Holy Innocents are remembered today as the tiniest martyrs. As the Church makes its faith in God clear - God sees one sparrow fall to earth, has compassion on all that is made. And will not forget the innocents that suffer, or who caused that suffering.


  1. Thank you. Our failure to record so much suffering hurts our common humanity, and stunts our God-given compassion, as people made in God's image and likeness

  2. When I was young, I attended an RC Parish, named for the Holy innocents. This was one Bible story to us that was terribly familiar,as each year, there was a solemn Requim mass for the Holy Innocents. But if we take your allegory further, their have been billions of the Holy Innocents, people killed for no reason, other than that those having power over them could. And, today,somewhere in the world, Holy Innocents are still being killed in Places such as the Yemen, Burma, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and probably other places I can't for the moment name. The scandal of our humanity is that we wring our hands, and pray, but do nothing.

    When O Lord, when?


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