The Fourth Dance of Christmas:
The Massacre of the Holy Innocents (December 28)
Reading, Meditation, and Collect
Gospel Reading for the Feast of Holy Innocents:
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:
‘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.’
This is a dance without words,
the words lead either nowhere or everywhere,
which may or may not even be in the same universe.
There is music though,
one string wailing, and out of tune,
a kind of hopeless, horrible, riff on real gut strings,
which, it turns out, really aren't from cats,
like the ones Bach would need for his requiem viola
or for those harps they played
by the rivers of Babylon.
The dancers move like she-golems,
naked, full-breasted, ridiculously weighted to the world,
dumbly grieving a loss beyond all calculation,
beyond knowing, speaking, re-phrasing,
figuring, explaining, shaping.
This danse basse is what chaos looks like.
And it may be all there is.
Perhaps one day--a circle of erect and noble forms,
a hymn which modulates this torture to
something more like mere heartbreak,
an instrument discovered to play their desolation true.
Perhaps, I said.
Till then, no.
Quit bellowing how best to grieve.
Restrain your impotent gestures.
They refuse your monstrous consolations.
Collect for the Feast of Holy Innocents:
We remember this day, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by the order of King Herod. Receive, we beseech thee, into the arms of thy mercy all innocent victims; and by thy great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish thy rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.