Prayer of the Christmas season

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Memorial of the Holy Innocents. Prayer for all those who, from the mother’s womb to the latter years of life, die as victims of violence.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Glory to God in the highest
and peace on earth to the people he loves.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 2,13-18

After they had left, suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.' So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I called my son out of Egypt. Herod was furious on realising that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Both the Eastern and Western Churches honour the holy innocents - victims of Herod’s attempt to eliminate Jesus. “They cannot speak yet and already they confess Christ! They are not able to take on the struggle…but they already triumphantly carry the palms of martyrdom,” sings an ancient Father of the Church. Herod’s cruelty is shocking. The fear of losing his power, even to a baby, pushes him to unthinkable cruelty. Truly Herod seems to personify the violent and cruel force of evil that even strikes innocent children. In his heart lies the homicidal fury that unleashes pain, tears, cries, and lamentations. Herod wants to save his power at any cost, even by committing an unthinkable and unjustifiable slaughter. The ferocity of evil is opposed by Joseph, who is powerless but strong through faith alone. Joseph once again listens to the angel who speaks to him and obeys his word: “Take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt.” This Gospel passage is not relegated to the past; the massacre of children and of the defenceless still continues today in many parts of the world. Millions of infants are decimated by hunger and disease; many are the object of violence, kidnapping, and exploitation. And how many children in our time, fleeing from war and conflict, find death instead amidst the cruel indifference of those so focused on themselves that they turn their hearts to stone and are incapable of being moved even by these little ones, whom we could call the “new innocent martyrs.” Cruelty towards children is a terrible plague that has struck the entire world. There needs to be more indignation about this cruelty. There also need to be more Christians and men and women of good will who listen to the Lord’s angel, like Joseph, and take the little ones, the weak ones, away with them so as to save them from the murderous slavery of the prince of evil, who continues to have foolish servants who allow themselves to be caught up in his homicidal cruelty.