Holy Innocents: a pieta

On the third, fourth, and most likely the fifth day of Christmas, too, I, like many of you no doubt, am spending some time catching upon a few things. One project seemed particularly and poignantly apt to the season: during Advent, some friends active in gun violence reduction and prevention asked for an orange stole to present to the speaker at their annual Vigil. (Find the story behind the orange stoles here.)

Advent anticipation aside, the days were overfilled and in the event, they passed on one they had already to hand, giving me time to fabricate a replacement, along with a few spares against future need. We’ve all done this – passed them on to share our prayers, commitment, the promise to pay attention to the plight of too many for whom the angels’ song of peace on earth is drowned out by gunfire, or by the echo of a single shot.

The stoles are cobbled together from whatever orange fabric I can lay my hands on in any given season; the constant that binds them together as a family – except for the orange colour – is the children’s handprint pattern that finishes each one off at the ends. It was that fabric, hauled back out onto the dining room table between celebrations, that caught me on the eve of the feast of the Holy Innocents, victims of Herod’s rage, pride, and violence.

In a flash of transference across time and space, I saw hands that would no more be held to cross the street, cupped to hold a splash of water, a cotton-seeded dandelion, a cheeky snowball. I saw hands that would not wash clean, reaching for the manger and the cradle over and over again, trying to reverse time. I saw hands at prayer and at work to end the ricochets that we continue to let loose among our children and their families; God help us and save us.

Because of Sunday, the commemoration of the Holy Innocents has been transferred to tomorrow. But their memory permeates this day, its work and its prayers, raised up by their brother, cradled in the arms of his mother: Jesus.

The observance of the Feast continues tomorrow.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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