It is the constant fear of every tyrant
that somewhere, perhaps in a obscure village,
perhaps at that very moment,
there is a baby born who will one day signal the end of his power.
Robert Ellsberg, All Saints
Today we remember the Holy Innocents, the male children two years and under who were killed by Herod’s troops, told only in Matthew’s Gospel. Herod was threatened by the report of the Magi of the newborn King of the Jews. In fear and rage he responded with what the powers of this world always have at their disposal – death.
Tyrants and all those who seek to hold on to control are threatened by the new and react in fear. As St. Quodvultdeus said in a sermon:
You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart.
Fear destroys others because it destroys the person who fears. Fear pales in the face of uncertainty and the lack of control. Fear keeps us from welcoming the newborn king of the Jews.
Today activists recall those children whose lives have been taken in war and whose lives are threatened by war and nuclear weapons. Other activists recall those killed by abortion. We should also remember those children killed each day by hunger, oppression, and injustice.
About 1965, Emily Sargent Councilman wrote a short poem that, perhaps, shines some light in the darkness of the death of the innocent:
The Herods of the world,
fearful for their power,
The Caesars of the earth
to implement decrees
But the God
above all governors
his armor and his purpose:
We have read the pages
will we dare