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Memorial of the Infants

The Memorial of the Murder of the Infants

Basilica Hymn
Hear this, all you peoples
Come and see the works of God
Herod had schemed to kill the Son of God, and so he sent the magi kings with an evil intent and a hard heart. But, providentially, they did not return on their path, and went to their land by another way. When the fox saw their mockery, he was enraged against the Son of their Lord. He sent the head soldiers and murdered the infants. But lo, he is tortured in anguish, and they are delighting in the kingdom of heaven.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
“Rachel weeps for her children, and does not want to be comforted,” the glorious prophet, son of Helaqya, anticipated and declared, inspired by the Spirit, for he saw the infants and the children who were sacrificed and killed by the impure Herod, the one filled with evil, who desired to destroy the Only Begotten Son of Existence. Glory to him who became small while nothing was impossible for him, and who moved to Egypt, not for fear of the savage one, but for the fulfillment of prophecy.

Justice

It is a corruption to associate revenge with a sense of true justice. A just punishment given to one who deserves it is not the same thing as releasing an individual anger in a violent way to an object of anger. In the political sphere, the sense of justice, of one truly deserving punishment for his crime, is nearly lost. In the case of most incarcerations, the justification for the prison time is either to teach a lesson through rehabilitation or to protect society from a dangerous person. Though both of these justifications are excellent and rightly in their place, there is a very important missing element, and that is justice itself. Rehabilitation and public protection aside, certain crimes deserve, objectively and truly, certain punishments because of the nature of the act. To say otherwise is to declare arbitrary every moral code – what other way is there to say that something is really “wrong” other than saying it is “worthy of punishment?” Justice is thus hanging on by a thread in our world.

Certain crimes, however, go beyond an ordinary human sense of injustice, and are said to “cry out to heaven” for their recompense. Such a crime was the killing of the children done by Herod. The Basilica Hymn memorializing this event begins thus:

Herod had schemed to kill the Son of God, and so he sent the magi kings with an evil intent and a hard heart. But, providentially, they did not return on their path, and went to their land by another way. When the fox saw their mockery, he was enraged against the Son of their Lord. He sent the head soldiers and murdered the infants. But lo, he is tortured in anguish, and they are delighting in the kingdom of heaven.

If there is any symbol of rage and false revenge, it is Herod. In order to thwart a practically imaginary foe (for Christ did not come to take over any earthly reign), he destroyed the lives of hundreds of innocent children and their families. The final line of the hymn shows that, in the end, there is an ultimate Justice meted out by God, the Just Judge.

Providence

Still, one must ask the question why this entire event happened at all? Why was it necessary for Herod to commit such a deed, and for God to allow it? Why was such suffering allowed?

“Rachel weeps for her children, and does not want to be comforted,” the glorious prophet, son of Helaqya, anticipated and declared, inspired by the Spirit, for he saw the infants and the children who were sacrificed and killed by the impure Herod, the one filled with evil, who desired to destroy the Only Begotten Son of Existence. Glory to him who became small while nothing was impossible for him, and who moved to Egypt, not for fear of the savage one, but for the fulfillment of prophecy.

Rachel refuses comfort. Even the promise of delight for her children and torture for their killer does not take away or undo the pain she feels at that terrible moment. This is a darkness that is not removed by the promise of a future light, a night that is not given meaning, during its duration, by the anticipation of the dawning day.

No explanation could have been given to those childless mothers as they tore their hair with their hands and their lungs with their screaming. Such is the nature of the most awful tragedies – their meaning is beyond the understanding both of any individual and of humanity as a whole. Its purpose in the Divine Plan, its allowance by God for some greater, unseen good, is not for us to explain or grasp, but only to accept and trust.