The Holy Innocents, A.D. 2012
Here at the monastery we observe the Octave of Christmas beginning with the First Vespers of Christmas on Christmas Eve and continuing all the way to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on January 1st. This is a very old custom and the Octave has a great solemnity to it with much rejoicing at the coming of the Christ, but also with some sobering moments as well.
The most difficult of those sobering moments falls on December 28th – the day that we commemorate the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem. Those children, age two or under, whom were slaughtered by King Herod after an inquiry from the Wise Men about the location of the “child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2). The Gospel of Matthew tells us that this fulfilled what the Prophet Jeremiah had said (Mt. 2:18):
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.
This Christmas, we are all Rachel. We are weeping for our children, the children of Newtown, CT and of every town throughout our land. We weep, because they are children no more. To be a child is to have no knowledge of death by gunfire. To be a child is to have no knowledge of a sibling or friend who has been blown to bits by a very troubled young man with automatic weapons. To be a child is to have no knowledge of America’s worship of idols – the idols of these same automatic weapons.
I, like Rachel, refuse to be consoled. And quite frankly, I hope you’re not consoled either. Because to one degree or another, we have all played the part of Herod. And for that we must repent – begging forgiveness of God and of the children, and committing ourselves to work for a nation and a world in which this type of profane slaughter is a thing of the past.
I believe we all fall into one of three categories:
- Perhaps, you are like me. You’ve known that our obsession with automatic weapons only increases the death rate in one shooting after another. But you haven’t done enough to force our politicians to work on this problem. If you recognize yourself in this description I call you to repent, as I have done. I call you to action.
- Or perhaps, you just believe that there is nothing much an ordinary citizen like you can do about this problem. If you recognize yourself in this description, I call you to repent, I call you to action.
- Or perhaps, you believe that automatic weapons should be available to virtually anyone and everyone. If you recognize yourself in this description, I call you to repent. I call you to action.
The action I call each of us to is to engage in a meaningful conversation about sensible gun control – in particular, the control of automatic weapons. Which are, let’s be honest, nothing more than weapons of mass destruction, with no other purpose than mass destruction. But not just conversation – legislation and enforcement.
We need to communicate with our politicians – to take to the streets if necessary – to boycott manufacturers and retailers of these vicious weapons if necessary – to make sure that we gain at least a modicum of sense when it comes to the issue of gun control. What happened in Newtown and Aurora and at Virginia Tech and in all these other mass shootings is complicated. Gun control is not the only issue involved. There are issues of how we handle people – especially young men – with mental health concerns, there are issues of community breakdown, and an alienation felt by so many of our brothers and sisters.
These are essentially all spiritual issues. But the one with the most immediate and practical application is gun control. Let’s start there – and work in the months and years to come to address all these issues. I promise you that as I continue to educate myself on all the related issues, I will continue to share that education with you.
Christmas commemorates the coming of the Prince of Peace. The very act of God loving humanity so much that he was willing to become part of us. Now it’s humanity’s turn to become part of God. We can begin to do that, when we turn those automatic weapons into plowshares. Act now.