28 December [Holy Innocents]
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.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and 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.’ 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. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“Herod!” says the Office of Readings, “you slay those little ones because fear in your heart slays you.” It was a penetrating psychological insight from an early Christian writer. Aggression is a manifestation of fear. But how is it that it looks just the opposite of fear? Why, because it is the repression of fear. If a person has not faced his own fear he will project it onto others and fight it there. If he hasn’t fought the war within he will fight it without. And of course (because it is all about fear) he will pick the easiest target. Even school children discover it: deep down, bullies are cowards.
God help the innocent who become victims of the psychological twists of other people. God help the many millions of war victims throughout the world.
But the Christian spirit is not one of fear (2 Tim 1:7). Instead we are to draw courage from the suffering of those who went before. St John Chrysostom wrote, “At the birth of Christ you see a tyrant raging, a flight ensuing, and a departure into exile. It was because of no crime that his family was exiled into the land of Egypt. Similarly, you yourself need not be troubled if you are suffering countless dangers. Do not expect to be celebrated or crowned promptly for your troubles. Instead you may keep in mind the long-suffering example of the mother of the Child, bearing all things nobly, knowing that such a fugitive life is consistent with the ordering of spiritual things.”
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