Slaughter of the innocents

A journey through Holy week  is not an easy one. The realities of the journey are harsh. It is easier, sometimes to let the familiar stories  slide off , as it is a risky business to go deeper. Sometimes a fresh angle takes my breath away. A new connection. An unexpected twist.  The following poem was one such angle.  Having known several years of infertility myself, it hit particularly close, when I came across it one Easter many years back. It is one that has stood in my memory since, retaining it’s power, and relevance.

How long we waited for a son, my man and I; 
Four times the seed miscarried, half formed the babe was cast away;
But to my anguished prayers at last, Jehovah bowed his head.
And beautiful as gold, my child lay curled within my arms
curving his tiny fingers round my thumb, laughing, crying,
his infant breath was mine and mine was his.
Deep the delight, the quiet joy of tiny mouth
seeking my breast, fulfilment for us both
as he fed there and I knew peace.
So blind and deaf with happiness, I did not hear of the decree.
Knew naught, until they came and dragged him from my arms,
raising the sword; there in our home
beside the fire, where late I suckled him
they slaughtered him, his radiant young blood outpoured in death.
The long grey years slipped by like ghosts.
Never again quickened my womb with child,
nor woke my heart to life nor love again.
And now I stand upon the hill called Golgotha
to tell you why I hated you, young Galilean.
For it was you he sought, that butcherer, that Herod.
Because of you, my babe was killed.
You, Jesus.
All through the years I hated you, I hated you
Til now, when as I heard them shouting  ‘ Crucify him!’
My heart sang loud with joy,
my babe, at last avenged
I cried, and took a stone to throw
but you fell, low beneath the burden of your cross.
And suddenly I saw your face, and looked into your eyes.
My suffering was there, engulfed in understanding
Lost in pain beyond the compassion of a human heart
You bore the burden of all other’s grief
and as you went, I knew you meant to die, for me.
It was as if my child were suddenly within my arms again
seeking the comfort of my breast.
The empty years were fled away
I thought I heard his infant laugh, who died for you
But now, as you too, walked the way of death
We shared the cross you carried,  part of a mighty pattern
you, my babe and me.
I knelt, a woman brought to life from death
as you passed by to Calvary.
Joan Brockelsby 


Matthew 2: 13-18

The Escape to Egypt

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14Then Joseph* got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
The Massacre of the Infants
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,* he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.* 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

Luke 13:31-35

The Lament over Jerusalem

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’

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