Friday, December 21, 2012
The Massacre of the Innocents
It's unbearably gray, but warm, an anomaly of a day for December, or at least what December used to be. I've been listening to the wind and trying to pinpoint what, exactly, it sounds like. Not a whine, no. Not a whistle or a moan. It's the sound of some kind of mechanical undercurrent, of things going on behind the scenes, somewhere else. This is how I interpret the spiritual world as well- an undercurrent. In the light of recent events, I am not alone in turning my ear to assess those undercurrents and examining my faith.
The Newtown tragedy rattled me to the core. I think I speak for many people when I say that. Having just become a mother, I get it, how, every child is your child and how you must live knowing your heart will now "go walking around outside your body," to quote Obama, quoting Elizabeth Stone. As a parent, you are vulnerable; as vulnerable as one can be. That vulnerability is terrifying. But to be vulnerable is to be human and despite all we do to save ourselves from vulnerability, it is inherent to our nature. So the problem lies in dealing with it. We need to first be honest with ourselves; we need to take clues from the subtler world of undercurrents, the world of light and dark, good and evil, yin and yang that it's time to put aside our myriad distractions and wake up.
The title of this particular blog entry, "The Massacre of the Innocents" is the title given to Herod's killing of the Jewish children of Bethlehem in hopes of eradicating his threat, the newborn King of the Jews. It was the Magi, three distinguished foreigners, who informed Herod of the child king and he in turn sent them to Bethlehem to find him. They followed a star to the place where Jesus was born bringing him gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Having experienced great joy upon seeing the child and a vision of an angel, the magi opted to thwart Herod and return to their homes without giving him the whereabouts of Jesus. Herod, in turn, ordered the killing of all Jewish babies under the age of two. According to historical sources, the number of innocents killed is approximately 20, the same number of children killed in the Newtown massacre.
Is it a coincidence or a significance? I have found other coincidence like this, for instance the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 1857, the Mormon Militia, disguised as Native American Indians slaughtered a wagon train of 120 men, women, and children in southern Utah. The reasons are unclear and debatable but the date is not; the massacre occurred on September 11.
Coincidences like these are cause for reflection upon the two dark and light forces, the seeds cultivated in our internal and external lives. Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Buddhist monk talks about this:
…there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They're all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.
We are all vulnerable to the dark seeds in each of us; we need to start there, with that truth. In that way we eradicate the "us" and "them" attitude that alienates us, that allows for evil to rear its head. Thich Nhat Hanh advises us to act, to change the environments that cultivate the dark seeds. If Nancy Lanza had been vigilant and responsible, she would have examined other alternatives, hobbies more wholesome and enriching that she could have shared with her son. As a parent, that was her responsibility. Instead, she is an indication of what is happening in our society, how people are tuning out of relationships and taking the easy way out, be it by distracting themselves with technology or grabbing that low hanging fruit.
Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. From here, the days will slowly get longer and we will have more light. Coincidentally, today is also the end of the ancient Mayan calendar, interpreted by some to be the end of the world. It's now 11:21 and that doesn't appear to be the case. But before the day ended, the sky split in two; half of it was dark cloud cover, the other half a radiant light pushing up from the horizon. I went downstairs with my boy in my arms and the light poured in through the sheer curtain causing the entire room to glow. I felt the presence of God's mercy, of a promise, should I be mindful and act, He will match those acts with grace. I can only hope I feel this way tomorrow.
Some believe that this night ends a dark era; we will be moving into a period of enlightenment. One can only hope. One thing's for sure, we have issues to confront, decisions to make on gun control, care of the mentally ill and the poor, illegal immigration, taxation, etc, etc.. It's time to honestly reflect, ask ourselves which seeds we are cultivating.
I am attaching a link to a performance of O Come, Emmanuel. I pray the light of Christ come and console the grief-stricken during this darkest night.