Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Rachel Is Still Weeping for Her Children
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.” Matthew 2:16-18 (Gospel Reading-Sunday after Christmas)
Good morning Prayer Team!
I have tried to make these reflections positive and upbeat. There is no way to tell the story of the Nativity without mentioning one of the darkest chapters of human history, the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod. It is a reminder that there are still “King Herods” among us who wish to harm the message of Christianity and those who adhere to it, that “Rachel is still weeping for her children.” This story is sad, but needs to be told, so that it can be understood, so that it can be changed.
When I read this Gospel passage each year during the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday after the Nativity, I always get tears in my eyes as I read the phrase “Rachel weeping for her children.” I think of the sadness in the world, of mothers and fathers who don’t have their children at Christmas because they have been a victim of disease, accident, war, terrorism or any other factor that causes pre-mature death, where a parent has to bury a child.
There was wailing and loud lamentation when Herod murdered all male children under the age of two. He was so concerned about his status as king, that he couldn’t stomach the idea of a baby potentially taking his throne. Herod was a murderer, a terrorist, he killed with anger and spite without sense or rationality. When Herod initially met the wise men, he asked them how long they had been following the star. When he learned that it was two years, he already was formulating a plan. He asked the Magi to go and find the child and let him know so that he could worship the Child as well. That was “plan A,” to go and kill the child himself. When plan A failed because the Magi didn’t return, Herod went to “plan B” which was to kill all the male children under age two. You might call Herod the original terrorist. Certainly this slaughter was an act of terrorism, senseless killing of innocent victims.
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about another senseless act of violence. Some of these acts are acts of terror, done in a misguided way, in tribute to “some god”. Some of these acts are done by those filled with extreme hatred, or extreme confusion. No longer do I go to the movies, or to the mall, or to a show, and don’t consider what I would do if someone took out a gun and started shooting. Living in “Ramah,” where “wailing and loud lamentation” are heard on the news, has almost made us numb to “Rachel weeping for her children.” So, what to do?
The root cause of “Rachel weeping” is the senseless act of King Herod. So, the fix to the problem starts there. Killing someone is the ultimate selfish act, and so stopping the killing begins with teaching people how to be selfless rather than selfish. Most of us do not have the “murderous” tendencies of King Herod—we are not going to go out and physically kill someone else. Yet, when you think about it, we all have a little bit of King Herod in us. Some part of each of us is selfish, insecure, and angers too easily. While we can’t control all the King Herods around us, we can certainly control ourselves. We can certainly teach our children to control themselves. We can certainly encourage our friends to control themselves.
When something happens a lot, we become desensitized to it. Killing happens every day, and not just killing with guns. Killing with mouths occurs by almost everyone everyday. Rachel is not only weeping for the senseless acts of violence that are killing our children. Rachel is weeping for the senseless acts of gossip and negativity that we are all prone to doing. One barometer we should use in making our decisions is “Will what I am doing make ‘Rachel’ smile or cry?” Let us all make an effort to dry her tears.
Since the Lord Jesus was born of the holy Virgin, the universe has been illumined. Shepherds were keeping watch, and Magi were adoring Him, and Angels were singing praises, and Herod was troubled; for God appeared in the flesh, yes, the Savior of our souls. (Stichera from Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Make “Rachel” smile today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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