Wednesday, December 28, 2016

4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents

Today is the 4th Day of Christmas. In the family group of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus we see God's plan for the family (more on that this coming Friday, the Feast of the Holy Family).  Today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents shows us how much The World (here in the person of King Herod) respects God’s plan:  it commemorates Herod’s slaughter of every male child two years old and younger in Bethlehem  in an attempt to snuff out the Messiah that he learned had been born there. The Holy Family escaped when Joseph was warned in a dream (see Matthew 1:18-25).

Massacre of the Holy Innocents by Francois-Joseph Navez
The most obvious present-day reflection of the murder of the Holy Innocents two thousand years ago is the wholesale massacre of unborn children by the millions through abortion today. The horror of this slaughter, and the callousness of its perpetrators, was brought into sharp focus in the past couple of years by the release of undercover videos documenting the flourishing commerce in the body parts of the abortion industry’s tiny victims.
We see a subtler echo of the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents in those youngsters who have dodged the abortionist, but are robbed of their Holy Innocence by our pornified pop culture.  Children today are directly in the path of a constant flood of degraded and degrading sexuality that pervades entertainment and advertising, blares out of televisions in airports and doctors’ waiting rooms, and has commandeered the curriculum in public (and to a remarkable degree in private, even religious) schools.  We can see the results in the ongoing dissolution of the family and the attendant host of social ills.
Here’s where the Holy Family can show us the way.  Just as Joseph and Mary brought Baby Jesus to Egypt to protect him from Herod’s soldiers, we can work to provide some safety for our own children, and other children in our care. It’s true, of course, that even measures such as internet filters and homeschooling can provide only so much protection.  Moreover, critics are quick to point out that nobody remains a child forever: eventually we must all face the world’s challenges.  Quite true - and the Holy Family did not linger in Egypt, nor did the grown Jesus remain an obscure carpenter in his parents’ home.  Nevertheless, aside from one incident at the temple in his twelfth year, he waited until His Time Had Come before he took up his Cross and walked the path to Calvary.  Blessed Pope Paul VI talked about the childhood of Jesus when he visited the Holy Family’s home town of Nazareth.  Blessed Paul said, in part:

 How gladly would I become a child again, and go to school once more in this humble and sublime school of Nazareth: close to Mary, I wish I could make a fresh start at learning the true science of life and the higher wisdom of divine truths . . .

Blessed Paul VI in Nazareth

      May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
  Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.

The child Jesus was formed and educated under the protection of his family before he went out into the world as a man.  In our world the pimps and pornographers of the popular culture have no more regard for the well-being of our children than Herod did for the children of Bethlehem. Is it too much to ask that we allow them a taste of Nazareth while there’s time?

(To read about babies saved from abortion by Christmas Carols, and to hear a hauntingly beautiful version of the 16th century "Coventry Carol", which was inspired by the Holy Innocents, HERE at Nisi Dominus)