On the fourth day of Christmas, in the famous counting song, the singers true love gave four collie birds (blackbirds–not “calling birds” as is commonly sung today). Blackbirds are generally accepted to be negative omens. No matter who’s looking.
Perhaps the one notable exception is the song “Blackbird” by the Beatles, where Paul McCartney writes of the freedom of the African-American people, using the symbolism of a blackbird whose been waiting to arise, learning to fly on broken wings.
The fourth feast day celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which is a combination of celebrating and mourning. The Holy Innocents were the babies who were killed in an attempt to kill the prophesied king born in Bethlehem. According to Scripture, King Herod had all the babies in Bethlehem massacred in order to kill Christ. However, the Church also sees them as being martyrs for the preservation of Christ, so they are celebrated for their sacrifice.
The practice of grief, especially for babies or for the unborn, is full of shrouds. Of course, the grieving shrouded themselves in order to set themselves apart. But additionally, when it comes to the death of children (especially babies), we shroud ourselves as a culture. We tend not to be comfortable talking about the death of children, especially when it’s happened to someone near us. The paralyzing fear of some parents, worried about losing their children, may be part of it. The lack of comfortability may be another part. For what would you say to someone whose child has been taken from them? There is no consolation for them. They must bear the grief and understand it in their own way. Knowing they can bear it is important, but it’s just not something we often discuss.
Today, I think not only of those who lost their children in the massacre of the Holy Innocents, but of those parents who have lost babies (born or unborn). I know many. They are in my prayers today, and all my intention goes to their comfort. Reason has no place in this discussion. There is no reason. There is only loss and comfort.
Today’s recipe, in honor of shrouds, is for a drink called The Purple Shroud.
Todays’s Christmas Carol was written for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It’s called the Coventry Carol. If you’re not familiar, you should take a listen. It’s beautiful.
By the way, speaking of babies…. my baby is out in print today! You can buy it here!