Thursday, December 28, 2023

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents


From the Book of Common Prayer, the Collect for the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Herod "The Great", the Idumean puppet king installed by Rome was known for his massive building efforts and his rebuilding of the post-exilic, or Second Temple.  For all of this, Herod was a paranoid, maniacal murderer who dispatched his wife and his son who was his heir apparent. Knowing this documented paranoia, being confronted by strangers inquiring about a "King of the Jews" could easily set him into a murderous rage.  In that blind rage, he ordered the murder of every boy, two and under, in the town of Bethlehem.

 Warned in a dream, the child Jesus' parents took the boy and as instructed, headed southwest to Egypt.  This moment was seen by the Prophet Jeremiah when he declared:
Thus says the LORD: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more." Jer 31:15 (ESV)
   These events were captured in the Coventry Carol, a piece dating back to the early Sixteenth Century. 

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