“The Virgin And Child Surrounded By The Holy Innocents” by Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel, 1618. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

O sing him a song that is new,

Play loudly, with all your skill.

Psalm 33

From the Liturgy of the Hours on the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, celebrated by Christian Churches on December 28, comes this reminder in an antiphon to the Psalms of the Catholic Common of Martyrs: “These are the first of mankind to be won for God and the Lamb; innocent, they stand before the throne of God.” It is a reference that combines an allusion to the Children’s Massacre in Matthew 2:16 with the white-robed martyrs of the Book of Revelation:

These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God. (KJV, Rev 14:4-5)

To reprise what has happened in Revelation up to this point: the Beast has been enthroned on the earth by the Dragon; the Beast was also given power to make war with the saints and overcome them.

Then John of Patmos sees a vision of the Lamb and a retinue of 144,000 on Mount Sion. A voice is heard from Heaven, harps play and harpers sing “a new song before the throne … and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth” (KJV, Rev 14: 2-3).

The song unleashes a host of angels and their prophecies (“Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city!”) and the Son of Man appears on a white cloud wearing a golden crown and carrying a sickle, for “the harvest of the earth is ripe” (KJV Rev 14: 15).

Thus the fall of empires: not with a bang or a whimper, but heralded by the voice of martyred children (first fruits at the birth of God) and martyrs (first fruits of the trials in Revelation), singing a celestial song. The song was crafted through successive hecatombs: from Pharaoh’s edict at the birth of Moses, to Herod’s orders at the birth of Jesus, to the blood of martyrs at the end of time.

In our time, the Song of the Holy Innocents is not accompanied by harps, but rather by the harsh lights and digital noise of modern media. Their voices are not angelic, and their song is not celestial. They yell with the angry sounds of the wounded and betrayed: you—their voices seem to speak to us—were supposed to take care of us.

Thus Iphigeneia could have addressed the Greeks at Aulis and Isaac could have spoken to Abraham, had Abraham not changed his god.


The demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington DC area, in the wake of the February 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (Credit: Lorie Shaull)

The Song of the Innocents was heard in Fort Lauderdale at a Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation days after the slaughter at Stoneman Douglas High. In a speech which was an outraged articulation, Emma González—one of the student survivors of the massacre—gave words to the song:

We are going to be the last mass shooting!

To every politician who has taken donations from the NRA, shame on you!

(and the gathered crowd agreed in chorus:

Shame on you! Shame on you!)

And then rising antiphonally, child bishop called and parishioners responded in delirium:

  • Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this—WE CALL BS!

  • They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence—WE CALL BS!

  • They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun—WE CALL BS!

  • They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars—WE CALL BS!

  • They say that no laws could have been able to prevent the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred—WE CALL BS!

  • That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works—WE CALL BS!

And it was as “the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder” was heard (KJV, Rev 14:2).


Emma Gonzalez speaks at the Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation in Fort Lauderdale, 17 February 2018. (Credit: Barry Stock)

In the Book of Revelation the song of the 144,000 unleashed upon the world the Seven Angels with the seven plagues “filled up” with the “wrath of God.” Here is what the voices of the Parkland Innocents are calling for:

  1. The conversation the NRA never wanted to have after mass shootings IS OVER, if it ever started. Before the Blood of Martyrs, all arguments against gun control ring hollow, and the time is now for action. Amen.
  2. There may be a 2nd amendment that guarantees gun ownership in our outdated Constitution, but there is no right of survival for the NRA, or right of electoral victory for its political lackeys.
  3. As in olden times in Harlan County, there are no neutrals here. You either stand with the gun crowd, or stand with the Holy Innocents.

I know where I stand. My youngest daughter Jimena—a first grade teacher like her great-grandmother before her—was asked whether she thought armed teachers could prevent mass school shootings. She scoffed at the notion.

How then to protect the students? Her answer: “I don’t know a single teacher who wouldn’t stand between the kids and the shooter.”



“St. Praxedes and Pudenziana collecting the Blood of the Martyrs” by Giovanni Paolo Rossetti (1621); painting in the church of Santa Pudenziana, Rome, Italy. (Credit: Georges Jansoone)


  1. OG, prescient you are! On the day of your post we read of a high school teacher discharging his weapon in a California high school class injuring one of his students from falling debris. As an elementary school teacher and Army veteran, I look upon the arming of educators with the gravest alarm. I
    stand with your daughter, shoulder-to-


    1. Jeffrey,

      Once again many thanks for your reaction to the post. Yes I saw that bit of news–it was only a matter of time. My disturbance is increased by the fact that none of these people calling for armed teachers ARE teachers, or have experiences in the classroom. Teaching seems to be the only profession about which everyone feels competent to pass judgments. What a world!

      One context to Jimena’s comment. She is a young teacher (5 years in the classroom) in a Title 1 school. #b years into her first semester teaching one of her students–a first grader!–brought a knife from home to her classroom and was menacing his fellow students with bodily harm and even killing them. Even after that experience, I have never seen her calling for armed teachers.

      Teachers or former teachers, like yourself, are the closest thing we have to saints in our time. Thank you for your service!

      Bright blessings always.



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