Reflections on the Feast of the Holy Innocents

To All the Families Who Have Lost Children this Year.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

I cannot believe it has been almost 4 years since we miscarried little Shalom, but yet, we cross this Christmas and into January as the parents of a child in heaven. Since then we have seen both friends and family marked istoryby the familiar grief that marked the year before our firstborn joined us. I am again reminded that if we had carried that first baby to term, she would not exist, yet we also miss that first child. Strange place to be? Yes. But this year, the idea of Holy Innocents, the feast which the world wide Churches of The Great Tradition observe Wednesday, has taken on new meaning for me.

Let me back up;

The Feast of the Holy Innocents is traditionally a time when we remember the slaughter of the innocence by Harrod, who, in looking for the God-King the Magi told him about, murdered every child in Bethlehem under the age of 2. I cannot image in the horror in Joseph’s mind as he awoke from the dream, grabbed his wife and 1 and a half year old son and fled to Egypt. Maybe even as Harrod’s armies could be heard marching in the distance. Just like Israel before Him, Jesus was carried off to a foreign country and would one day relive the exodus of his people, redeeming Israel’s history. But for now He was a refugee, yes, a refugee, fleeing a murderous autocrat, so yes, a political refugee. Because of His birth, mothers and fathers lost children and Jesus became a refugee fleeing political violence.

But it is those mothers and fathers who lost children that day, newborns to two years of age. Children so young they could not possibly comprehend what was going on or articulate anything other than screams of pain. Those mothers and fathers who we think about and pray for this day. Joining them, we pray for all who lost children through miscarriage and in birth and all those children who died by abortion and we remember them as the Holy Innocents.

I know I have been zeroing in on St. Irenaeus of Lyons a lot lately, that is because he has helped me sort through the change in thinking about Infant Baptism I’ve been experiencing as I move further into Anglican teaching, but his teaching on Christ’s redemption of childhood has been helpful and comforting for other reasons, for example, as we mourn the loss of a Nephew in childbirth. Thinking of his experience of growing inside his mother’s womb as ‘”redeemed” because Jesus, the redeemer also grew in his mother’s womb has greatly helped me process the emotions. I still wish we were going to get to meet him in May when we see my wife’s family again, and I look forward to meeting his twin sister, but I do take comfort in the fact that Christ came to redeem all of life and that includes his life before he was born is a great comfort. To know that he had the best Christmas imaginable is a great comfort, but it does not mean we do not still mourn him or wish he was with his mom and dad and sisters. It does not mean we do not mourn and miss our first child who we knew form only 12 weeks, even though they are before the thrown of God, celebrating the final restoration and redemption of all life. To think that the two little girls growing up before my eyes have had their experiences redeemed by Jesus putting on flesh, that too is comforting.

This can be a good time to remember to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. I know there has been a lot to mourn and grieve about as a nation this year, and many of us are burned out and exhausted by it, but it is good and healthy to once again set aside the inevitable numbness and remember those who are mourning, especially those who are mourning the loss of a child.

Losing a child for any reason, in any way, is far from easy. Let us remember today those who have lost children and remember the children themselves.

May God grant peace and grace to the suffering. Amen.

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