Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The First Pro Life day

James Tissot's (1836-1902) Massacre of the Innocents has always been a shocker for me since it is so realistic in its depiction (and is like those photos of aborted fetuses).  And like many people who then and now get scandalised by death (and photos of aborted fetuses), they criticized the artist for the harshness of the theme.  Even though many historians and Biblical scholars now think Herod's murder of the children is hagiography to shore up the early Christians' resolve, I would still think it did happen though not in the scale we thought it was. Nonetheless, a single murder is an abominable sight in God's eyes. The scale doesn't matter. But in our human weakness we tend to consider murder, homicide and  accidental death as statistics.

Tissot painted the scene according to an ancient tradition as the Brooklyn Museum website says

" Herod lured the intended victims to the palace with the promise of a party. The children were then wrenched from their mothers’ arms and tossed to their deaths in a courtyard. Herod’s deviousness was thus highlighted: called singly into a long corridor, the women had no opportunity to warn others of the impending tragedy. "

Tissot's watercolour brings the message that the massacre was due to deviousness and fear and the children are no statistics. Tissot who was once a celebrated painter of gay  ("gay" in its original meaning!)   secular subjects especially of high society in the 1880s had a mystical experience and from then on painted only religious subjects culminating in the Life of Christ. We don't exactly know the details of Tissot's conversion but perhaps the Book of Common Prayer's collect for Holy Innocents Day reflects it well

"O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Let us beg forgiveness to the Lord for our neglect of children for this is the First Day for Pro Life!

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