Dec 282011

December 28 is the fourth day of Christmastide and the octave of Christmas

Feast of the Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents by Giotto di Bondone.

A Feast–from the Latin word Festum–is an annual event like a Solemnity but is not as important or solemn. When Americans hear of a feast, we think of a great meal. In Christian vernacular, it means a celebration or remembrance of a person or an event.

Today’s feast recalls “the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time [King Herod] had ascertained from the magi.” Matthew 2:16.

Herod knew from the Scripture that the One who was to come was the rightful heir to the throne he was sitting on. To remove the threat, Herod killed off all who could have been the Christ. A Roman historian wrote in the third century that Herod even killed his own sons.

We learned from this verse that upwards of two years have passed since the Nativity. Therefore, the Magi could not have been there on Christmas morning as is often represented in art.

Coventry Carol

The 16th century play, “Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors” includes a song we know today as the “Coventry Carol”. Coventry is name of the city in England where the play was performed. It is a mournful lullaby sung by the mothers of Bethlehem to their dead sons, the Holy Innocents.

Lully, Lullay, thou little tiny child.

Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Lullay thou little tiny child, Bye, bye, lully, lullay

O sisters, too, how may we do, For to preserve this day;

This poor Youngling for whom we sing Bye, bye lully, lullay

Herod the King, in his raging, Charged he hath this day;

His men of might, in his own sight, All young children to slay.

Then woe is me, poor child, for thee, And ever mourn and say;

For thy parting neither say nor sing, Bye, bye lully, lullay.

Novena for the Protection of the Unborn

Triumph of the Innocents

“The Triumph of the Innocents” – William Holman Hunt

Some begin a novena today for the end of abortion and protection for the unborn – today’s Holy Innocents – while others started it on December 19 to end today.

Celebrate the Youngest Today

A tradition for today is to make the youngest member of the family the “celebrity” of the day. Customs like decorating the crib or blessing the baby are appropriate ways of observing the feast. Not sure how well it works when the youngest in 60+ but it might still be a good tradition to keep.

Also on the day when when celebrate the littlest ones who shed their blood for Christ, we honor the young servants of the Church: acolytes, servers, and students.

Four Colly Birds

Today’s gifts are Four Colly Birds representing the Four Gospels (Greek for “Good News”) of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.Most of us sing this as “four calling birds” but the earliest copies of the song lists the black European bird: the Colly bird.


Today’s Readings

Feast of the Holy Innocents (martyrs) Lectionary: 698

Ramah is a village six miles north of Jerusalem. The lamentation of Rachel is so great as to be heard at a far distance.