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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmastide 2016: Childermas and Newtown Childermas

Today is another fine day, Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I am re-printing two of my posts on Childermas from 2013; we arrived home last night just after midnight, struggled tragically with the luggage up the many steps, and collapsed.

I slept too long and have much to do, so I have little time to write, but there is - as always - so much to be said, especially when the writer thinks his words are so important for the future of mankind and the rest of the earthly biome.

Childermas is of great importance to me. It has been for a time.

The times since the turn of the century have been a bumper harvest of children shot, children displaced  by war, children bombed, childrens' bodies washed up on beaches around the Mediterranean. So far, the 21st century may be the Century of the Child, but if it were, we would have to pronounce it with ironic sarcasm.

Now more than ever I find children to  be wonderful... ever since my granddaughter came.
(See her photo in the post Christmas Morning Glory: )


Childermas 1

 Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit

Since researching Saint Nicholas Day on the sixth of December, I have been drawn to the role Nicholas played in our civilization's conceptual understanding of children and society. In particular, the fact that this season we are in begins on Saint Nicholas Day and finds an ending near Childermas, or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the children who were slaughtered by the order of King Herod.

So we have something I had never noticed before: a season that starts with the Saint who restored life to two brothers who had been murdered for their belongings, and extends through the birth of the Christ Child, and then celebrates the Holy Innocents, a feast which is a climax of gore as well as a celebration of martyrdom.

I begin to suspect that there was a distinct awareness of the abuse of children in the past, and that this season was instituted and modified over time with that awareness very much in the intuitive and the active minds of the peoples of the time: they created a sequence of holy days to celebrate children - to illustrate the horror of crimes against the young and to contrast that with their innocence and sinless natures - all of which makes them counterpoints against the sordidness and evil of the World.

I feel as if I had been blind, and now I see.

This is a time to remember the children now orphans in Bangladesh whose parents and relatives made clothes and childrens' toys made in the factory where 120 people were killed in a fire. This is the season when we must keep the sight of the children slaves in India recently freed from their evil masters who forced them to make Christmas toys and ornaments..., for us.

Scrooge Sees the Boy, Ignorance, and the Girl, Want

As we fight, claw, and gibber madly in the spiritual wasteland of Black Fridays, we fail to realize how black we really are; we are the inhumane processes of Dickensian London portrayed in A Christmas Carol that condemns its own children to poverty, disease, and despair:

"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.
"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.
"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"
The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

And this realization of mine that our past generations have tried to build walls of inspiration and holiness and faith to protect the innocent, and we ourselves have not received this gift without debasing it and making it a wretchedness of material excess, leads me to a deep distaste for our ways and times.


Childermas 2

Brueghel's Slaughter of the Innocents

In the post The Feasts of All Children  (or Childermas 1 above),  I spoke of how this season may have developed, beginning with the miracles of St. Nicholas of Myra, who discovered the crime of the young students being murdered for their wealth, urged the criminal responsible to confess his crime, and then restored the students to life.
All in all, a fine inspiration for a saint of innocent children.

With St. Nicholas on December 6 we have a narrative about Children being abused, Children being innocent victims, and Good triumphing over Evil.

Then with the Christ Child on December 25 we have a narrative of Good triumphing over evil and a Child of unsurpassed innocence and purity. This Child, however, has his own history inextricably linked with liturgies and holidays soon to come of Abuse and Violence, as this Christ Child will grow into an adult who will be violently killed - not by marauders and thieves - but in a social setting and by socially approved ways of justice.

Lastly we had The Holy Innocents, or Childermas, on December 28, and we have the narrative of those children killed by King Herod's order to slaughter new  borns, lest they be the King born to supplant his rule. Here again we have Innocence, Abuse and killing, and the fact that these children are martyrs or witnesses to the faith: Good triumphs over Evil.

What we have construed as some mad dash to the mall, it seems that our ancestors wove together with statements, hints, nuances, suggestions, story and fable to create a quilt-like story of the cycle of the miracle of renewed life as children are born into the world, the harsh environment into which they are born, and the moral responsibilities of all society to ensure one thing above all other things! Above ideologies, above politics, above retail shopping, above fiscal cliffs and other self-created stumbling blocks!!!...........
One thing the hearers and viewers of the stories are supposed to do is to ensure that Good triumphs over Evil.

We have turned away from the story of the Feasts of Children and created a diorama of our diseased souls. The trampling of shoppers at the mall and the fights and shooting over toys reflects our endless wars and threats of wars.

So we add to the season of Children, not by a triumph of Good over Evil, not by actions which our progeny will remember for centuries as great feats portrayed in icons, but by a new Childermas, a new slaughter of the Innocents:  December 14.


I missed the Feast of the Sandy Hook Innocents or the Newtown Childermas. It was 2 days after my mother's passing. I pray for all now.

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