Christmas 4: Lully Lullay

Today is perhaps the hardest day of the Christmas season, the day that remembers the story found in Matthew 2 of Herod ordering the murder of all boys under the age of 2. While this is not an aspect of the Christmas story that is often told, it finds a home in an old and melancholy song, the Coventry Carol (beautifully rendered here by the sublime Anúna). The carol, part of a medieval mystery play once regularly performed in Coventry, gives voice to three mothers who are mourning the children they will lose. Today’s poem considers these women and the promise that Jesus the Messiah would be acquainted with our griefs. It’s a story I would rather pass over, with my son only eleven weeks old as I write, but God does not pass over our deepest griefs, so I want to use this story to remind me of the fact that He hears and knows and is present in all that we cannot understand.

Lully Lullay

Come, little child,
born to die,
born to bear our griefs and die,
born to dwell with us who die,
weep with mothers now.

Come, God-made-flesh,
righteousness,
come dwell with us within our mess,
come hold our scars and cry our tears.
Weep with us all now.

Come, light in dark,
little spark,
keep vigil now with broken hearts.
Hold all our tears within your scars
and hold us as we shake.

Peter Bruegel the Younger, “Massacre of the Innocents”

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