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Communion Meditations (2021)


Slaughter of the Innocents

Originally scheduled for June 13

An unusuaSlaughter of the Innocentsl painting of the Slaughter of the Innocents.

“The Massacre of the Innocents,” an 1824 painting by Léon Cogniet.


The first thing you expect to see in the painting on this subject is a tableau of soldiers running amok. You see very little of that, happening just behind the inadequate hiding place the woman is using. The painter has chosen to emphasize the effects of their action rather than show us the soldiers themselves. The soldiers, after all, are nothing but political pawns.

The figure of the woman, on the other hand, dominates the painting. If you are perceptive, the thing that you will see first is her stare — directly into your eyes. You can see the terror she has; the soldiers are coming to kill her baby. You can also see the despair. She is barefoot; she has to carry a baby and the soldiers will be so much faster than she can run. Her eyes turn to you, silently begging for help. She’s cornered; no place to run and a poor place to hide.

Look also at the child’s eyes. His mother’s hand is over his mouth, forbidding him to make a noise — why? The infant is bewildered by his mother’s actions in the clamor going on around him. He is helpless; he is frightened; therefore he is terrified.


Our reaction is one of instant sympathy. Why do we sympathize with the victims in this situation?

·         Built into each of us is a natural reaction to an infant. If you think not, watch what happens when a mother brings an infant onto the playground at school. The girls all gather around the baby. There are smiles on each face. God designed us to love and protect the infant. The slaughter of the innocents cuts across everything we know and feel about babies.

·         There is also our sense of justice. This is not an unfortunate accident; if an infant dies in a traffic accident we are, of course, sympathetic. If an infant is slaughtered by the agents of the government we are outraged.

·         Particularly for those who have felt the responsibility of great authority, the reaction also includes our revulsion of abuse of authority. Just because you’re the king doesn’t mean you get to slaughter anybody you particularly dislike.

For these reasons we are outraged at the slaughter of the innocent.


Consider then, the ultimate slaughter of innocent — the crucifixion of Christ. He was completely innocent; sinless. It’s not like he was innocuously standing around; he had established himself as someone exceptional by his miracles, particularly his healing miracles. We would like to think today that such a man would be highly valued, applauded and protected — a national asset, if you will. His execution was an abuse of power by a cynical Roman governor, egged on by his manipulators. Our natural reaction should be one of complete outrage.


Remember that today as you partake of communion. The bread represents his body, the cup, his blood — a sacred body, innocent blood. The holy, innocent one who was sacrificed for our sins is shown to us in these emblems. As you partake, remember it was not just any body who died for us. It was the son of God in the flesh, sacrificed for our sins. Be outraged at the slaughter of the innocent; be grateful for the salvation of the guilty.


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