Monday, December 28, 2009

Holy Innocents


Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents commemorating the martyrdom by Herod's cruel decree of the boy babies born in Bethlehem and the surrounding cities. Many have come to associate this day with the "Holy Innocents" lost each day to abortion. I was born on this day in the year abortion first became legal, 1973. Often, those of us born in this year are called the "first survivors" of abortion and I understand the meaning, but in the womb of my mother and under her heart, I was never in any danger.

It occurred to me the other day that the story of Moses is a foreshadowing of the massacre in Bethlehem and a parallel to abortion, as the Egyptians slaughtered the Israelite male children during the captivity in an effort at "population control." Moses is rescued from this fate by his mother who floats him in a basket of reeds down the Nile where the Pharaoh's daughter finds him. She knew he was an Israelite child, she knew her father's law required his death, but somehow when she saw this child, heard his laughter, held him in her arms, he became something precious, something to be protected, and so he was saved.

In a lesson from the Baltimore Catechism I was reading with my younger sons, the image of Herod ordering the death of the Innocents is used to exemplify the effects of mortal sin in the soul. The analogy being that Christ's life and grace flees from the soul that commands its death as the Christ child fled into Egypt to escape Herod's murderous decree. I've read the story of Herod many times over the years and I still find it shocking, but reading it to my sons that day it seemed especially fresh and especially terrible. How could anyone slaughter so many baby boys? Had we lived at that time and in that place, we likely would have had a dreadful visit from Herod's hit men. I could see the boys looking at one another as I read. Behind their serious eyes I could see them wondering, how? How? This will not happen to you, I assured them. Nobody will come to take your brothers. Still, the analogy between this and the real danger many unborn children face today is troubling.

On this feast of the Holy Innocents I pray that as the innocent unborn are carried by the swift current of our culture in the thin, but carefully woven reeds of pro-life efforts, that the world might look upon their face and see in them something precious, something to be protected.