The story of the massacre of innocent children by King Herod (recalled especially by christians on December 28th) is a significant reminder of the innocence of children, and the way children suffer and are abused – not only in history but in the world today.

Only recently we have learned of children being abducted or sold by human traffickers, and of the abuse children have suffered at the hands of wicked people.

The massacre of innocents described in St Matthew’s Gospel (2. 16-18) is, tragically, a timeless story.

In the face of such tragedy what can we do?

Here is a painting by the French art teacher and painter, Louis Cogniet (1794 -1880). Cogniet had over a hundred famous students. He himself mainly painted portraits and he painted few religious paintings. Nevertheless this painting The Massacre of the Innocents (1824) is one of his most famous. We see the massacre under Herod portrayed. The dark colours and the ruins in which the scene is set make this a tragic and solemn painting.

The woman is cornered, literally. She seems to have no means of escape. What is going on around her seems to much. She is extremely vulnerable – and her bare feet and appearance emphasise this.

The woman, who, had she not managed to escape could be Mary. Yet, this is a modern portrayal as well as a historic, religious one. Many women, many people, are ‘cornered’ today in highly stressful situations. They feel they can do nothing.

The woman holds on, in love, to her child. In her anguish she also has hope. In her corner she is showing love and protection.

In the face of such tragedy what can we do?

Taking time to look at the painting and reading the Bible story, in the light of our world today, leads us to prayer and leads us to work for peace and justice in our world. Kindness, generosity and goodwill to the ‘cornered’ in whatever way we can give it is a calling of the Christian and of all people of good will.

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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