Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Suffer the little children...

The Feast of the Holy Innocents or 'Childermas' takes on a special significance and poignancy in our age when so many unborn children are killed. Since the 5th century, this feast remembers those children who were massacred by Herod in his vain attempt to eradicate the Christ-child as a claimant to his throne. As such, they are venerated as martyrs who gave their lives for Christ. As the Second Reading in the Office of Readings, a sermon by St Quodvultdeus says: "Though they know it not, these children die for Christ and their parents are mourning the death of martyrs. The Christ-child has made babies, who are unable to talk, fitting witnesses to himself...They could not speak yet they confessed Christ. Helpless to enter the battle, they carried off the palm of victory." How tragic still are the deaths of those innocent babes whose parents don't mourn and infact, in many cases, actively will! The Byzantine liturgy says fourteen thousand were killed while the Syrian texts speak of sixty-four thousand. But these number pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of babies who are killed in the womb in our day. In other Western rites, this feast commemorates "the holy babes and sucklings" or simply "the infants". It is fitting then that today, of all days in the year, and in such proximity to the liturgical Feast of the Christ-child, we can remember the innocent victims who have been killed in their infancy.

There is a beautiful carol, with a haunting folk melody that was part of a play called 'The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors' in 15th century Coventry. The lullaby was sung by the mothers of Bethlehem to their children, just before King Herod’s soldiers entered the scene (for the slaughter):

"Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.
Lully, lulla, 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

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay.
Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
By by, lully lullay."

We do well to pray not only for their souls and their parents but perhaps we should also ask the Holy Innocents to pray for us and for all victims of abortion, including the mothers... for in such matters, all are victims of the Evil One who is the Deceiver and our Accuser.

Thus Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae: "The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception" (para 58) and then "I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life" (para 99).

Finally, as we reflect in this Christmastide on the massacre of the innocents, both in Bethlehem and in our day, let us look to Our Lady for encouragement and aid. In the words of Pope John Paul II: 'Mary thus helps the Church to realize that life is always at the centre of a great struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. The dragon wishes to devour "the child brought forth' (cf. Rev 12:4), a figure of Christ, whom Mary brought forth 'in the fullness of time' (Gal 4:4) and whom the Church must unceasingly offer to people in every age. But in a way that child is also a figure of every person, every child, especially every helpless baby whose life is threatened, because-as the Council reminds us-'by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person'... Mary is a living word of comfort for the Church in her struggle against death. Showing us the Son, the Church assures us that in him the forces of death have already been defeated: 'Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life's own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign'..." (Evangelium Vitae, 104, 105).

At the end, Prudentius' vision of the Holy Innocents at play around the altar of God in heaven shall become a reality for all:

"All hail, sweet flowers of martyrdom,
Cut down in life's bright dawning hour,
And shattered by the foe of Christ,
As rosebuds in a whirling storm...

First victim of Christ,
Tender flock of the immolated
Simple at the altar's foot,
simple souls, simple children,
You play with the palm and the crowns,
With your palm and your crowns.

Amidst the streams of blood that flowed
From tender babes of equal age,
Alone, the Virgin's Son escaped
The sword that pierced the mothers' hearts."

The image above is called 'Our Lady of Guadalupe defending the children'. May she intercede for all the unborn and protect them from harm, loving them as a true Mother.


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