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THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS DECEMBER 28


Massacre of the Innocents Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Text: Robert Croo (1534) Tune: Thomas Mawdyke ca.1590s


Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child, Bye bye, lully, lullay. Thou little tiny child, Bye bye, lully, lullay.


O sisters too, how may we do For to preserve this day This poor youngling for whom we sing, “Bye bye, lully, lullay?”


Herod the king, in his raging, Chargèd he hath this day His men of might in his own sight All young children to slay.


That woe is me, poor child, for thee And ever mourn and may For thy parting neither say nor sing, “Bye bye, lully, lullay.”


REFLECTIONS


Abraham and Isaac going to the sacrifice Joakim Skovgaard

The Massacre of the Holy Innocents, the day when King Herod ordered all the infants under two in Bethlehem to be slaughtered in an effort to do away with the baby Jesus who threatened his monarchy! An awful day in history. But it is not unique. Brutal leaders and rulers have been killing infants and children over history. Child sacrifice was rampant in the time of Abraham and remained so in cultures around the world. We watch with horror the journey of Abraham with Isaac toward his sacrifice. God put an end to that by offering the ram in the thicket and Israel learned that God opposed child sacrifice.


Societies that mistreat, persecute and kill their children will pay, ultimately. If not in this life, at the final judgment. We are to care for the widow and orphan. Jesus is fierce in his condemnation of those who hurt children for their own sake. Better they be cast into the sea with a millstone about their necks. When we hear of those who have abused children for their own pleasure, we are horrified. When we hear of children being shot in their schools by madmen, we are appalled. We all want to do something to stop it, but cannot agree what would end it. We are, nevertheless, like Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be consoled.


All we can conclude is that evil lurks in the heart of many, even maybe our own. Who of has not wondered how we could have been less impatient and more loving with a child in our care? Even if we have not physically hurt them, many of us have erred on the side of a kind of neglect by not caring enough, or working hard enough, to give a child boundaries. It is really hard to say no. Children desperately need rules in order to grow and flourish.


Rachel weeping for her children

Many have been saying and more every day are agreeing that our children have suffered a great deal through the pandemic. Psychologists and doctors have pleaded for us to look at the collateral damage we have caused our kids by canceling school and abandoning them to zoom classes, leaving them maybe in abusive homes where the abuse will not be discovered by teachers. The drug overdoses, suicides and increasing visits to emergency rooms for children suffering mental crises is exploding. How can we live with our selves knowing that thousands, yea, even millions of kids lost a precious year or more of learning to read or add, or enjoy the company of their peers?


We are sure to be judged one day. It will come not just on the last day, but when we need a doctor to treat us, a plumber to repair our pipes, a lawyer to help us face difficulties, a policeman or woman to keep us safe but cannot find any because many potential vocations fell by the wayside during the year of the pandemic.


So instead of pointing back to Herod for his cruelty today, I am looking at my own heart and wondering how I have contributed to the suffering of the little ones around me and in our society. And then doing what I can to help one child or two, even, to flourish. Those who I am near to I will attend to more closely and support with prayers and money those who can and do help the little ones who need our help. Desperately.


HYMN INFO

This ancient carol, with its searing lyrics, comes from the Coventry Cathedral set of mystery plays. These were the plays from the Middle Ages written to teach people the stories from the Bible. Some think it can be traced back to the 14th century. Because Roman drama had become so licentious, Christians banned drama for some centuries. When that memory had faded, people began acting out the Bible stories for the day in church. By the Middle ages, there were well developed plays, performed by townspeople, and guilds, in the cathedrals and city squares. The Oberammergau Passion play is of that variety.This song came from the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors telling the story of Christ's nativity based on the book of Matthew. In the play three Bethlehem women sing it as they enter the stage with their children. They have just heard the angel warning Joseph to take his family to Egypt and escape Herod's edict.


My hymn was written for the Old Testament lesson used for the day of the Holy Innocents, Jeremiah 31:15-17. On this day the cry of Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, seems more searing than ever.


LINKS

King's College Singers 2011


King's College Singers 2019


Pentatonix









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