Tomorrow is the Feast of the Holy Innocents in which we remember those small children of Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod in his mad attempt to murder the young Jesus. Yes, not very Christmasy. . .
Or is it?
For as I wrote some years back, there is a dark side of Christmas, and we impoverish ourselves if we ignore it. It is fitting that we remember the first martyr of the church, St. Stephen, on the day after Christmas and the first child martyrs of Christ two days after that.
There is a Christmas carol that has become a favorite of mine, Unto Us is Born a Son, as arranged by David Willcocks, the venerable past Organist of the Choir of King’s College Cambridge. Here is it from Carols from Kings back in 2003.
And it was also sung in this year’s Nine Lessons and Carols service from King’s on Christmas Eve. (And at this time, you may still listen to said service from BBC for a few days.)
While listening to the service this year, I noticed a verse dedicated to the Holy Innocents, which I’ve highlighted.
U us is born a Son, King of quires supernal:
See on earth his life begun, Of lords the Lord eternal.
Christ, from heaven descending low, Comes on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their owner know, Becradled in the manger.
This did Herod sore affray, And grievously bewilder,
So he gave the word to slay, And slew the little childer.
Of his love and mercy mild This the Christmas story;
And O that Mary’s gentle child Might lead us up to glory.
O and A, and A and O, Cum cantibus in choro,
Let our merry organ go, Benedicamus Domino.
Whoever wrote these words in the 15th Century (then in Latin) understood well that remembering the Holy Innocents is very much a part of Christmas.
May God bless you on the Feast of Holy Innocents and in the remainder of this Christmas season.