The Holy Inncocents

King Herod, the Insane

Today, right on the heels of the Nativity of Our Lord, we remember the horrible massacre of children who have come to be known as 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.”
Matthew 2: 16

I might add, that after doing an exhaustive google image search (well, truth be told it only took a minute,) for public domain images, I noticed that almost all of the ones currently in use are available over at the Holy Innocent’s Gallery, a project of the Star Quest Production Network, and Fr. Roderick.

Fr. Roderick and I go back a looong way on Facebook, and I know he won’t mind my linking to his site and his wonderful image library.

Hey Fr. Roderick! Merry Christmas!

Er… Fr. Allen, Fr. Ken, Kenny… Priest, USA, Facebook? OH. It’s not ringing any bells? Erm….

Well. Life goes on. Lord knows I’ve faced worse rejection.

But nothing as bad as the Holy Innocents had to deal with. Look at these artworks… and the cruel, vicious fate awaiting these poor souls.

Often in Sacred Scripture we’re faced with a great moment of salvation history, and somewhere around it we’re confronted with a great sadness, a cruelty, an injustice.

For instance, look at the Sorrows of Mary. The Flight into Egypt is seen as one of the sorrows, and yet it’s right on the heels of several of the Joyous Mysteries: The Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity …. then the portending of the Seven Swords which shall pierce her heart, followed by the Flight into Egypt.

We can also look at the time when Jesus was lost and who knew where he was? One can only imagine the grief of a mother losing her only child, and there was no doubt some of the hyperbole in her mind that he was the son of God; no doubt there was a bit of the reminder that people had already tried to do away with him via the Massacre of the Holy Innocents as well. A great sorrow indeed for Mary.

Holy Innocents

And right on the heels of that, we have a joyous mystery: Jesus is in the Temple teaching the scholars a thing or two about the nature of God.

So, the sorrows are always found limning the joys in Scripture, and we know that to be true in our own lives. Sorrow and joy often live side by side in the heart.

Icon of the Holy Innocents

Scholars debate the authenticity of the Massacre of the Innocents, since the historian Josephus does not mention it. But being as Bethlehem was at the time a small town, it’s usually considered that the atrocity of Herod’s deeds was so terrible and awful, that the small town massacre of children did not make the books of heinous deeds which he had commanded.

I often wonder how long Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem. Herod killed the babes from 0 – 2 years old, based on the story and travel of the magi.

Perhaps people of the modern age should take a clue from Joseph and Mary. Herod listened to magi and was a model of self will run riot. Mary and Joseph sought to do God’s will, and listened to the visitations of angels, who sometimes spoke to them in dreams.

Today’s world, filled with horoscopes, omens and oracles, war, famine, abortion and the encouragement of self will above all other considerations, sees the evil of Herod amplified on a scale probably unimaginable in the days of Herod.

Lord, take our lives and our wills, and show us how to use them to do what you will. Lead us to peace, so that our loves may be examples of your power and might shining through us. Have mercy on the holy innocents of our day, and show us the power and joy awaiting behind the sorrows of our times.

Help us O Lord. We surely do need it.

Amen.

Kerald COdex, Holy INnocents

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Matteo_di_Giovanni_002.jpgCornelis van Haarlem - Bethlehemse kindermoord

Peter Paul Rubens Massacre of the Innocents.

William Holman Hunt - The Triumph of the Innocents

innocents

Holy Innocents

holoy innocents

Holy INnocents

Wonderful Clip Art Site

engravingGreat site here with scans from old books.

The page shown here is filled with art, and the site itself has a number of other treasures, worth a leafing through.

It’s great if you happen to need a bit of art to add to a post, or if you’re designing a site and need some high quality free graphics. (Who wouldn’t want that?)

Be sure to check it out and bookmark it; it’s called From Old Books.

Eagle and nest

Feast of St. John, Evangelist

St. John the EvangelistBeautiful readings from St. John’s letters in the readings today. Here, from the USCCB’s site, the Bible section, 1st Letter of John, we have a bit of explanation on the First Letter of St. John the Evangelist:

The author sets forth the striking contrasts between light and darkness, Christians and the world, and truth and error to illustrate the threats and responsibilities of Christian life. The result is not one of theological argument but one of intense religious conviction expressed in simple truths. The letter is of particular value for its declaration of the humanity and divinity of Christ as an apostolic teaching and for its development of the intrinsic connection between Christian moral conduct and Christian doctrine.

Today’s writing on Faith is almost always done in a tone of theological argument, as more and more people study theology.

Education in the Faith versus a Lived Witness

St. John the Evangelist
But the big tension that arises from arguments in theology always comes back to the lived witness of Christian life. As St. John writes:

What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what
we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched
with our hands

…for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father
and was made visible to us

what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

The emphasis is constant ~ we’ve seen him , we touched him, he is real; really in the flesh, in and about the world. He’s also fully divine, from the beginning, with the FatherSt. John the Evangelist. Fully human, fully divine. The two natures in one person.

St. John does not have to argue from theology, his witness to Jesus Christ helps us to understand theology; it helps us to write out theology and try to understand Jesus Christ in a better way, a more clear image of this Savior of all mankind.

A personal witness from the Apostles, which is handed down through the unbroken succession of Apostles, counts for a lot.

Revelation informs us that in the great battle against evil, “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony;”.

I.e., not only are we saved by the powerful salvific action of Jesus Christ, and his shed blood; we are saved by the testimony of the Faithful. In other words, how are people to know Jesus Christ and to come to him unless we come to know him and share our stories of him? And unless others share their stories with us? St. John here is the prime example of witness.

Questions for Reflection

How does my life reflect my knowledge of Jesus Christ? Is my knowledge of Jesus Christ a learned theology, or is it borne of prayer, reflection and communion? Is my knowledge personal, regarding the person of Jesus Christ and not an academic understanding of him?

St. John the Evangelist, Pray for us.