On the Fourth Day of Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We are reminded that every person, however innocent–or not–is holy. This is a notion that came alive with the coming of Jesus. And, in the light of Jesus, the suffering of any person cannot be excused or ignored.
Christ was born into a society we can hardly imagine . . . in which any notion of the sanctity of every life was completely alien; some were born only to die–handicapped children, girl children in some places, exposed on hillsides to starve or freeze; slaves who existed to serve every passing desire of their masters and mistresses; outsiders, foreigners, who were not really human; gladiators whose job it was to kill or be killed for public amusement. It’s not– let us be clear–that human behaviour has improved so spectacularly since the first Christmas that we can look back on these atrocities with complacency. A country with our current rates of abortion cannot afford to rest on it ethical laurels; there is effective slavery among the poorest of our world; civilized societies have started flirting once again with the idea that torture might be acceptable. It is not that we have left Roman-style inhumanity entirely behind; what has changed is that no-one now could possibly take these things for granted without coming up against a challenge from most of the main imaginative and moral currents [indelibly shaped as they are by the memory of Jesus] of our Western and Middle Eastern cultural history.
– Rowan Williams, ‘Choose Life, Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral’