Thursday, December 28, 2017

Spirituality: Excerpt from “Holy Innocents” By Robert Ellsberg

This terrible story, omitted from the typical Christmas pageant, is a vivid reminder of the violent world into which Jesus was born. There were certainly those for whom the coming of the Messiah represented anything but good news. Did Jesus at some point learn the story of his birth and of the children who had perished in his place? If so, that chapter in his education is reserved for his “hidden years,” beyond the scope of the Gospel narratives. From the early centuries, however, the church has commemorated the feast of these Holy Innocents. Unlike traditional martyrs who would later die bearing witness to Christ, these little ones died unwittingly in the place of Christ. They were killed by the same interests that would later conspire in the death of Jesus and for the same reasons – to stifle from birth any hope that the world might be changed.

In our own time whole villages have been massacred on the basis of similar reports: “In such-and-such a hamlet the peasants have formed a cooperative … It is said that in such-and-such a village poor families are gathering at night to read the Bible and other subversive literature … It is well known where this is likely to lead … Advise that appropriate action be taken before the danger spreads.”

The feast of the Holy Innocents is not simply a memorial to those who died before their time. These infants represent all those cut down to prevent the seed of liberation from taking root and growing. They are those who die in the dream of a different future, hoping but never knowing that their redeemer lives. In remembering the feast of the Holy Innocents the church commemorates these victims of Herod’s rage. But it also celebrates his failure.

His power is doomed. The child lives.

Source: Michael Leach, et al, editors: Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, pp. 219-220.