Rev. Mary McCue
Today, we remember the Holy Innocents. Described in Matthew’s Gospel,
(Matthew 2: 16-18), it is the horrific story of Herod sending his troops to
massacre all boys aged 2 and under. Herod was infuriated by
by the Wise Men, who tricked him by leaving for their own country
without telling him where the child who would be King was.
The story may be a legend, as some later scholars have claimed.
They cite as evidence the fact that the incident appears only in
Matthew’s Gospel, though it seems to be foretold in Jeremiah:
“Rachel wept for her children and would not be consoled.”
Legend or not, it is one of the images from Scripture that has
inspired artists of all types. The Bruegels (father and son), Remi,
Rubens, Giovanni and Tintoretto all produced images of the massacre,
as did other less-well-known artists.
And it inspired one of the most beloved carols for this time of year.
In the 16 th century, The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors, based on
the incident, was sponsored by the Shearmen and Tailors Guild.
It included the Coventry Carol. (In England, crafts guilds vied with each
other to stage plays based on Scripture: the Nativity, Crucifixion, Corpus
Christi, Resurrection. It was an early form of Christian education
in rural and semi-rural England.)
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington