Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents. Morning prayer today included that devastating reading from Jeremiah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.

The reading from the saints, taken from writings of St Quodvultdeus, focuses on Herod’s choices and motivation:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and forever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger.

It doesn’t take long, looking around the world today to see that innocents still suffer at the hands of tyrants. Children die violent deaths every day out of cruelty or fear, neglect or rage. If we think back to Advent, when we thought about the brokenness of the World that God entered, we see it again here today. Here we face the risk of the Incarnation. Where hatred and lust for power remain, as in Herod, the innocent suffer.