When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
- Matthew 2:13-18
The quote is from Jeremiah 31. I had written the other day that Stephen was the first Christian martyr, but another claim could be made for the Holy Innocents.
However, my hope is that this incident is a literary device, and that there was no such slaughter in history. As a literary device, it calls to mind the Pharaoh’s massacre of Hebrew children in Exodus 1. And by referencing Jeremiah, it brings in corporate memory of the Babylonian exile. Jesus the Messiah is the new Moses, once again saving his people. And he is also leading them out of exile and back to their home in God.
Nevertheless, slaughters of innocents have occurred throughout history and are still occurring today.
Along with the Matthew and Jeremiah readings, we hear today the fulfillment of hope in the Revelation to John:
I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away."
And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
- Revelation 21:1-7
“They Dance Alone,” a tribute to the women who danced the Cueca, the national dance of Chile, as a protest after the men in their lives—husbands, fathers, sons—were disappeared by the government. As many as 3,000 men may have been eliminated by Pinochet’s regime. As do our lectionary readings, this video begins with the grim and terrible but ends with the promise of hope.