Epiphany & Innocents

Playground child

You can make a swing out of anything; courtesy of: m.atlanticities.com

The Astrologers from the East…

7-8 Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”

9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

13 After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”

14-15 Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”

16-18 Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled:

A sound was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
    dead and buried.

Traditionally, the Feast of the Holy Innocents is celebrated on December 28 — remembering the day when the stargazers, shaman, astrologers (however you title them) met with Herod and told him about a new "king of the Jews". Sending them on their way to Bethlehem under the pretense he, too, wished to worship the Christ-child, Herod sent soldiers instead to massacre every infant boy under the age of two years.

Asking pardon from my liturgical friends, but I can't separate The Holy Innocents from tomorrow: Epiphany. Epiphany celebrates these eastern scholars who honoured the Christ-child with:

gold for his divine kingship over all people
frankicense for his divine priestly role
and myrhh for his impending death.

Power sought to destroy Innocence. Herod sought to destroy Jesus. Power still seeks to destroy Innocents today. I can't help but see and accept the reality of child soldiering, child trafficking, slum children, beggar children, child labour…

… all of them children. All of them innocent. Where are their saviours? Where are their wise men? Where is their Christ-child?

Power used fear and death to try and destroy Life. It has not changed. Many Herods ravage our world, even within our own midst, and the Innocents are the first to be exploited and destroyed. The weeping in Ramah has not ended.

The Incarnation however, as expressed in the knowledge of the Stargazers who only knew to come find a child, uses Love to cast out all fear… and tear down Power, that the oppressor may terrify no more.

May our eyes be opened to the cycles in our lives that cause the oppression of Holy Innocents the world over, and may the Love and Peace of the Incarnation empower us to stand in the face of Power, draining it of fear and control.

Coventry Carol

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

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

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

 

 

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