Psalm 124: Care! Be “Snare-Breakers”

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

December 28, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, remembering the Holy Innocents, we pray with Psalm 124.

Had not the LORD been with us—
When they rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.

Psalm 124: 2-3

The story of the Holy Innocents is shocking and gruesome. It is almost unbelievable— but for the fact that history has confirmed the capacity for perfidy in human hearts.

Herod’s consuming hunger for power swallowed everything in its path. And that kind of outrageous hunger has been replicated down through the ages in wars, genocides, slavery, mass incarcerations —- every manipulation of the vulnerable for the sake of the powerful.

These abominations would not be possible without the dehumanization of the other. This is the intrinsic atrocity of the massacre of the Holy Innocents. And it continues to be the core sin tempting every soul – to advance myself, apathetic to the cost of another.

We pray today for all in the human family overwhelmed and swept into desperation by the forces of cruel indifference:

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.

Psalm 124: 4-5

We pray for the grace to become ever more just and merciful in our own choices; to be, in the name of the Lord, snare breakers for our sisters and brothers

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins 

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Music: Salvete Flores Martyrum from Quicumque Christum Quærtis

This hymn is a cento from the twelfth and last poem in the Cathemerinon of Prudentius, and in its full form it contains 208 lines. First line of complete hymn: Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Four beautiful centos from this hymn were included in the Breviary by Pius V (1568)

The earliest and most beautiful cento is the Salvete flores martyrum, which is found in the St. Gall manuscript, No. 413, of the 11th century, in a 12th century manuscript in the British Museum

Salvete Flores Martyrum

Salvete flores Martyrum
Quo lucis ipso in limine
Christi in secutur sustulit
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
Vos prima Christi victima
Grex immolatorum tener
Aram ante ipsam simplices
Palma et coronatis luditis.
Jesu tibi sit Gloria
Qui natus es de Virgine
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula

All hail, ye little Martyr flowers,
Sweet rosebuds cut in dawning hours!
When Herod sought the Christ to find
Ye fell as bloom before the wind.
First victims of the Martyr bands,
With crowns and palms in tender hands,
Around the very altar, gay
And innocent, ye seem to play.
All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet
To Father and to Paraclete.

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