Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The crib and the cross

I almost missed posting on two important days in the Christmas season: The Feasts of St. John the Evangelist and that of the Holy Innocents.

December 27: Along with Peter and James, John was one in the inner group of apostles who were especially close to Jesus. John and his brother James earned the title "Sons of Thunder." The Gospel for the 27th applies to the disciple and of all who, like him, "saw and believed." Saw what? Not the cave of Bethlehem, but the empty tomb. Not swaddling clothes, but burial cloths first spoke of the word of life, revealed in Jesus the Christ.

In poem number 906, Emily Dickinson observes that we see most clearly "through an Open Tomb." So it was for the early Church. In that "Light--enabling Light," they came at last to understand the significance of the crib as well as the cross.

December 28: The Holy Innocents are the infant boys who were slain by the jealous Herod the Great. How many were there? If the population of Bethlehem is estimated as around 1,000, perhaps about 20 boys were slain. Today their feast reminds us to pray for the protection of all human life, including the unborn.

Not only in the world of Matthew's Gospel (Matt 2:13-18), but in our own world too, history seems to repeat itself with depressing regularity. The massacre of innocent children continues, and Rachel weeps inconsolably.

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.


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