Slaughter of the Innocents

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men,
was exceedingly angry, and sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem . . .
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah, the prophet, saying
“In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great
mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because
they are not.”
                                                                                                                 Matthew 2:16-18 (KJV)

To say such a slaughter was bad is badly understated;
indeed, it was a monarchial monstrosity,
a misdeed of biblical proportions.

And two millennia later, how unlikely it would seem,
as if in delirium or drug-induced dream,
for Herod to appear anew in Newtown, Connecticut,
a place so far removed, though no less bucolic
than Bethlehem before his Slaughter of the Innocents.

From the complacency of Christmas,
a seasonal naivety we used to enjoy with impunity,
we are awakened by Rachel weeping again,
wailing like hell—
for Ana, Allison, and Avielle.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Before the curse of Herod overwhelms us,
tell us, O Lord, pray tell us
if truly this is “thy will,”
that we must give you back
little Benjamin, Jessica, and Jack.

As we near another nativity of your own son,
tell us what can be done with closets
full of new clothes, trinkets, and Tinker Toys
Rachel has bought with thought and caring
for each of her precious little girls
and almost-baby boys?

What will she do with all those gifts
so lovingly selected,
the boots and books, the bikes and games,
for Catherine, Caroline, and James?

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

But cut her some slack, merciful God,
if Rachel is slow to forgive
the Herod who broke her heart,
the murderer of Madeline, Chase, and Charlotte.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil —

The evil of Herod’s legacy is alive
and lurks in our communal psyche,
tempting us to accept, if not condone,
the Slaughter of Innocents other than our own
in places as far-flung as Afghanistan and Hiroshima,
even as we mourn and do not understand
the killing, so obscurely obscene,
of Olivia, Jesse, and Josephine.

For thine is the kingdom —

Let it be a gun-free place of peace,
one where there can never be a Slaughter of Innocents,
a celestial sanctuary where Rachel need never weep again,
a scene of fun in never-ending sunshine, safe and sylvan,
for David and Dylan.

and the power, and the glory,

And now with hope that trumps despair,
we commend to Your care for the rest of eternity
what was Rachel’s fleeting glory
in Grace, and Noah, and Emile —

for ever and ever. Amen.