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For the Holy Innocents, Then and Now

December 28, 2012

I have heard the haunting melody of the Coventry Carol any number of times, but without having taken much notice of its text which refers to the massacre of the Holy Innocents, whose feast the Church observes on this day (see today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 2:13-18).  But here it is indeed, and this year it has taken on a particularly bitter poignancy.

Lully, lulla, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, 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.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say
For Thy parting, neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lulla, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

 

Hat tip to Fr. James Martin, SJ, who adds, “May we pray for all who were killed in Newtown, and for all who are threatened by violence across the world.”

Amen.  Kyrie eleison.

 

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One Comment
  1. December 29, 2012 9:48 am

    Back in the 80’s, Allison Moyet sang this on the first A Very Special Christmas album, and she sang all the verses, very clearly. I’ve always found this carol to be sad and moving. Sort of a reminder, among all the other joyful carols, of the broken world into which Christ comes, and the suffering he will one day endure.

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