Many members of St Nicholas came from Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Hoffman Estates, when that mission was closed.
For that reason, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating the slaughter of the Hebrew children, has become a deeply meaningful post-Christmas observance for our community. This year, it has gained more attention as many people across the country connected it to the slaughter of innocents, and innocence, in Newtown, Connecticut.
References to Rachel weeping for her children cropped up on social media; clearly, this obscure “minor feast” of the Christian church seems to resonate strongly for many.
This year, the Feast of the Holy Innocents falls on Friday, December 28. In the usual practice of liturgical churches, we transfer its observance to the following Sunday, the 30th. The choir of St Nicholas, led by
choirmistress Mary Fletcher-Gomez, will sing the Coventry Carol, a traditional English carol that commemorates the slaughter of the innocents. This was decided after the last choir practice, which fell the week after the massacre. Choir members discussed what could be done, and although the singing of the Coventry Carol was not scheduled this year, it’s something that is “in repertory” and that can be sung well by anyone.
This year, it’s offered in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre as well.
One of the more striking contrasts on the Christian calendar is the commemoration of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, three days after the celebration of Christmas. In remembering the young children slaughtered by King Herod in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth, the Church jolts us from Christmas joy into a contemplation of the ways in which violence and human brokenness, in spite of Christmas, still enslave the human race.
Today, just as two thousand years ago, the most jolting violence of all is that committed against
innocent children. This year, that jolt came earlier, and much more tangibly, than it normally does. The murder of 26 innocent victims, many of them children, in a schoolhouse in Connecticut in the waning days of Advent ripped through the joy of Christmas for millions.
As our hearts and minds struggle to comprehend the tragedy of young lives cut short, Holy Innocents Day this year offers an opportunity for grace, hope, and inspiration for the days ahead. It offers an opportunity “to awaken us” as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her message immediate after the shootings, “to the unnoticed number of children and young people who die senselessly across this land every day” and challenge us “to work toward a different future.”