27 December 2012

'Rachel weeping for her children'. The Holy Innocents, 28 December

The Flight into Egypt, Adam Elsheimer, c.1605 (Web Gallery of Art)

Gospel. Matthew 2:13-18 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."

The only manuscript copy to have survived into recent times was burnt in 1875. Our knowledge of the lyrics is therefore based on two very poor quality transcriptions from the early nineteenth century, and there is considerable doubt about many of the words. Some of the transcribed words are difficult to make sense of: for example, in the last verse "And ever morne and may For thi parting Neither say nor singe" is not clear. Various modern editors have made different attempts to make sense of the words, so such variations may be found as "ever mourn and say", "every morn and day", "ever mourn and sigh". The following is one attempted reconstruction. [These are the lyrics used in the video above.]
Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

I took part in a Rachel's Vineyard retreat in Ireland more than a year ago. I was a participant, not a member of the team. Those leading the retreat and helping in various ways and those making it, apart from the team priest and myself, had all been directly affected by abortion, as mothers and fathers of children they would never see.  

There was a quiet sense of joy and moments of humour during the weekend. There was deep respect for each one present and no pressure on anyone to share more than he or she wanted to.

Here in the Philippines, where abortion is illegal, Pro-Life Philippines estimates that there may be as many as 750,000 induced abortions per year. The population is estimated to be around 90 million. The Guttmacher Institute in the USA, which could not be described as being 'pro-life' but whose research is, I think, reliable, estimates that in 2000 there were anywhere between 394,500 and 552,300 induced abortions.

Individuals in the Philippines rarely speak about their experience of abortion. There is an urgent need for ministries such as Rachel's Vineyard. 

How to start?

Massacre of the Innocents, Givoanni Angelo del Maino, c. 1520 

1 comment:

Fr Seán Coyle said...

A friend sent me a link to an article on www.lifesitenews.com: 'Guttmacher Institute overestimates illegal abortions by over 1000%: study' [http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/guttmacher-institue-overestimates-abortions-by-over-1000-study].

It is impossible to know accurately how many abortions take place in the Philippines each year but those who are pro-life and those who are pro-abortion all give estimates of around 500,000. The estimate of Pro-Life Philippines above is higher than that of the Guttmacher Institute.

However, behind each individual number are at least three human beings: the baby who was aborted, the mother and the father. Others are those directly involved in the abortion.

Thanks to the friend who sent the email.