Archive for the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ Tag

Fourth Day of Christmas: Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   2 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

DECEMBER 28, 2019

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, 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 and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-unfortunate-cheapness-of-human-life/

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Devotion for December 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Massacre of the Innocents

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Grace Amid Grief and Violence

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2017

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 148

Matthew 2:13-18

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Let kings and commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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Christmas Eve and December 25 are supposed to be joyous occasions, especially liturgically.  Yet, for many people, grief due to the absences of certain family members detracts from the celebration.  Such times ought to become occasions for grace to flow to those who grieve, with mere mortals functioning as agents of God.  We live in the midst of grace, which I liken to a lamp.  We notice its light more at night than we do earlier in the day.  Likewise, grace becomes more noticeable when we perceive the need for it to be greater.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of the return of the exiles from the ten lost tribes of Israel to their homeland, an event which has yet to occur.  Rachel weeps because of their absence, but there is hope, the text says.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew quoted part of that passage and related it to the Massacre of the Innocents.  Herod the Great was a mean and mentally unhinged monarch who derived his power from the Roman Empire.  He authorized violence against members of his own family, so ordering the killing of strangers was consistent with his character.

Some stories of violence follow the great festival of Christmas Eve and Day.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  And December 28, of course, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Jesus entered a world in which evil people commit or consent to violence to benefit themselves and many other people stand by and watch it happen.  Human nature has remained constant and the violence has continued.  We humans are creatures of habit.  That fact contributes to the imperative of fostering and pursuing positive habits, those which build up people and contribute to the common good.  This is possible, for God has bestowed ample grace upon us.  What will we do with it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/grace-amid-grief-and-violence/

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Devotion for December 29 and 30, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Guido_Reni_-_Massacre_of_the_Innocents

Above:  The Massacre of the Innocents, by Guido Reni

Difficult Questions of Suffering

DECEMBER 29 and 30, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you know that we cannot place our trust in our own powers.

As you protected the infant Jesus, so defend us and all the needy from harm and adversity,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:15-22 (December 29)

Isaiah 26:1-9 (December 30)

Psalm 20 (both days)

Luke 19:41-44 (December 29)

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (December 30)

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From God’s holy place may you receive help;

may God strengthen you out of Zion.

–Psalm 20:2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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In the Jeremiah reading God comforts the Israelite nation.  They have sinned, yes, and the negative consequences of persistently bad actions will ensue.  But exiles will also return in time.  In the midst of punishment grace speaks.  The beginning of the passage reappears in Matthew 2:18, in the context of Herod the Great’s massacre of the Holy Innocents.  The Collect from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) reminds us that God spared the life of young Jesus.  Yet others died in his place.

The readings for these two days combine to constitute a certain tension.  God is faithful and will be merciful after either allowing punishment to occur or after meting out punishments.  Yet the latter God does not do happily.  Nevertheless, innocent people suffer because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.  The readings from December 26 tell us that this does not indicate that God has been negligent in divine duties.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 joins the chorus of affirming voices:

So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The New Revised Standard Version

Theodicy is a risky endeavor.  God is best qualified to justify self to human questions, of course.  And our ideas (or at least some of them) might prove false.  But, if God is truly the one and only deity–as I affirm–then God is in the dock.  I, as an honest Monotheist, cannot blame one deity for bad events and credit another for negative ones.  But one of my favorite spiritual inheritances from the Jews, my elder siblings in faith, is the right to argue with God faithfully.  I want answers to issues such as the suffering of the innocent.  Until or unless I get them, however, I still have a healthy relationship with God.  And I intend to continue to have one for the rest of my days and afterward.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/difficult-questions-of-suffering/

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Devotion for December 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Matteo di Giovanni

The Distress and Suffering of the Innocent

DECEMBER 28, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:13-54:10

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 110 and 111 (Evening)

Matthew 2:13-23

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Some Related Posts:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

A Prayer for Those Who Are Desperate:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-desperate/

A Prayer for the Healing of Minds:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-the-healing-of-minds/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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Whom did the author of Isaiah 52:13-54:10 have in mind?  Perhaps the Jewish people themselves were the despised and suffering servant.  Or maybe a pious Jewish minority was the servant.  Another interpretation of the text is that it speaks of an in individual, perhaps Jeremiah.  This last option is plausible.  The text, unfortunately, does not say for sure.  And, of course, there is a Christian interpretation which applies the text to Jesus.  The imagery fits poetically, if not chronologically.

This is an interesting passage to read along with the Matthew account of the killing of the Holy Innocents.  The servant, in Isaiah 53:5, suffers for the sins of others.  This applies to the unfortunate young boys whom Herod the Great had killed.  Terrible fates fell upon these who had done nothing.  Terrible fates fell upon them because of the sins of one man and those who obeyed him.

Such violence continues to the present day, unfortunately.  The existence of a just God does not prevent them, obviously.  And the joyful tone of Isaiah 54:1-10 leaves many grieving and otherwise distressed people cold.  This is understandable; I do not condemn.  In fact, I have at least as many questions as do other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF HENRY JUDAH MIKELL, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF AFRICA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM GRANT BROUGHTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-distress-and-suffering-of-the-innocent/

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