St. Stephen and The Slaughter of the Innocents

On the church calendar of the Roman Catholic Church there are some rather bloody commemorations. The martyrdom of St. Stephen is remembered on the first day after Christmas and just yesterday, Dec 28, the slaughter of the innocents is served up to the worshipers for spiritual fare.

All this to show that Christmas is no fairy tale! It is blood and guts, the sword Jesus promised. Jesus forces evil out into the open where its true darkness is seen and before which the Church is gloriously robed in the righteousness and strength of the Lord. The sweetness of the babe lying in a manger soon gives way to the wrath of Herold and the malice of those who fall upon Stephen for his pure witness to The Way.

Are these not warnings and signs? Are these not prophecies of the filling up of the afflictions of Christ in the Church, that through our wounds He continues to be present and to speak?

As holidays give way to the routines of January and the joys of Christmas celebration fade, remember that we were meant to go forth from the manger to do battle, to be tried, to be accused unjustly and to die. May the innocence of the babes of Ramah and the courage of St. Stephen be yours in 2010.

Sweet flow’rets of the martyr’s band
Plucked by the tyrant’s ruthless hand
Upon the threshold of the morn,
Like rosebuds by a tempest torn;
First victims for the incarnate Lord,
A tender flock to feel the sword;
Beside the altar’s ruddy ray,
With palm and crown you seem to play.
Ah, what availed King Herod’s wrath?
He could not stop the Savior’s path.
Alone, while others murdered lay,
In safety Christ is borne away.
O Lord, the virgin-born, we sing
Eternal praise to You, our King,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.
Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 413)

Thanks to Paul McCain for the photo and poem.

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