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The Holy Innocents

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

The stark reality of the slaughter of innocent young children to assuage the fears of that dark-hearted tyrant, Herod, is a sad counterpoint to the spirit of Christmas. We follow the alternate day for this feast as set out in the BAS. It removes it from Christmas week, and sets it on its own as a sad day of remembrance, for it grounds us in the reality of human existence. Innocents are victims of violence, greed, disease, calamity, and death every day.

Christmas and the Christmas season comes at the darkest time of the year, and there are really two sides to this time – it is a most wonder-filled time of the  year when God so loved us and the world that God becomes one of us – and it is a time when those of us who have known suffering this past year or whose suppressed suffering has resurfaced experience a deep sadness. Yet, into the darkness comes the Light of Hope that there will be a better time. That true Light is Jesus and his Way of Love.

I believe with this light of Hope, we are called to open our eyes and ears to see the suffering in this world and to hear the cry of Rachel. “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15​. Still today, Rachel, who represents the Motherhood of God, who watches over us and weeps with and for us. God sheds a tear for every lonely child, for every suffering youngster or adult. In this new year that lies before us, I pray that we may re-commit ourselves to alleviating the suffering of others whenever and wherever we encounter situations that need healing, compassion, and love. Herbert O’Driscoll wrote a hymn for Holy Innocents Day and was included in the December issue 2023 newspaper of the Diocese of New Westminster. It is a moving reflection of our world today.

“Jesus, babe of Bethlehem’s manger, helpless in your newborn hour;
Born in days of death and danger, Herod’s hatred, Roman power;
We who watch as countless children daily die in cruel ways,
Trapped in endless human conflicts, help us not to turn our gaze.

Orphaned child, her city ruined, dangers in its shattered streets,
Lead her to some sheltering haven where with care and love she meets;
Freezing child in storm tossed waters watching as his parents drown,
Children of an ethnic cleansing crying in a burning town.

Children too in every city known to us in this our land,
Living without love or pity lives we barely understand;
Children lonely, unprotected, children mentally confused,
Children some by drugs affected, children cruelly abused.

Jesus whom we know as loving, Lord of all things good and true,
Show us that when children suffer serving them is serving you.
Jesus, Prince of Peace in glory, guide us that our wars may cease.
Help us change our human story, grant us wisdom, grant us peace.

Whether this feast day was kept during Christmas week or on January 11th it is a reminder of God shedding a tear for the suffering of all God’s children everywhere, and of our own call to reach out to the suffering of others whenever and wherever we encounter situations that need healing, compassion, and love.

In the December issue of the newspaper from the Diocese of New Westminster, Bishop John Stephen wrote: “For at the heart of life, at the centre of living, at the core of what it means to be human, we discover that it is love, love of God and love of neighbour that shapes and informs us. And Christmas is about naming this discovery.”

I share a hymn from one of the hymn books we use here at the Convent called “Gather” as a meditation or musing for this day: from Gather, hymn # 425

Dream a dream, a hopeful dream, as children do on Christmas Eve,
imaginings, surprising things to hold and to believe. 

Dream a time, this Christmas time, when no one’s hungry or afraid;
that weapons go and harvest grow, that friends are met and made.

Dream a peace, our planet’s peace, the greening of the earth at play,
the holy ground where life is found, where God has touched the clay. 

Dream a gift, the Christmas gift that changes everything we see: 
the shimmering of angel wings, the Child, the Mystery.