December 17, 2012
A Prayer for the Holy Innocents
During this time of Advent in 2012, so many of us as faithful Christians are finding it painfully difficult to experience the Joy of the Season, when others are lost in such grief. While we prepare to celebrate the birth of a child, we are heart-broken by the loss of so many children.
Yet, it was the same at the beginning of our Christian faith, two millennia ago. The Nativity of our Lord, which we celebrate on December 25, is closely followed in the liturgical calendar by the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which we commemorate on December 28.
Having been deceived by the Magi as to where and when the Messiah would be born, King Herod in a desperate and wicked attempt to remove any rival to his throne ordered that all the male infants in Bethlehem should be killed. Matthew 2:16. This horrific event had been prefigured by the similar massacre of the innocents at the birth of Moses. Exodus 1:15-17.
The words of the Gospel of Matthew, recalling the prophecy of Jeremiah, are especially poignant today:
A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.
Yet, even in the midst of such sadness, hope prevailed. As the evil of sin and the wages of a depraved culture were revealed by this unspeakable wrong committed against the innocents, the Christ child shows us another way of love. As the Gospel of John writes of the coming of the Christ: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
And so I echo the thoughtful words of Kevin Lee in the post below, "tomorrow, perhaps, we can return to educating [our children] in our faith, our morals, and the best of our traditions."
In an earlier version of the Roman ritual, this prayer is offered for the Feast of the Holy Innocents:
Let us pray. O Lord, Jesus Christ, Who didst embrace and lay thy hands upon the little children when they came to thee, and didst say to them: "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs, and their angels always see the face of my Father," — look with a Father's eye upon the innocence of these children and their parents' devotion, and bless them this day through our ministry. By thy grace and goodness let them make progress in desiring thee, loving thee, fearing thee, obeying thy commandments — thus coming to their destined home, through thee, Saviour of the world, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, God, forever and ever. Amen.
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