This Poor Youngling For Whom We Sing

Today is Childermas, a feast day in which the Herod's slaughter of the innocents is solemnly celebrated.

It is the Christian faith which acknowledges that all people are people. The nations affected by Christianity cannot see it now, but before Christianity nations used terms like "human" to refer to "us", while "they" were not human at all. The other, the lame, the sick, the weak, the helpless. These were despised, that which we look away from. And so it was with children. The pagan world was full of massacre, abandonment, exposure, sacrifice, and abortion. Children became people when Christians began to say they were.

It is appropriate that this day be a Christmas feast. We humans are weak and helpless, and the king desires to slay us all so that not one may steal from him his stolen throne. Yet one of the children lives to bring down the mighty from their thrones and exalt those of low degree.

There is a beautiful carol which has been looping in my playlists all month. It is the Coventry Carol, which has an interesting history. In it two women ask each other how they might save their children from Herod, but we know as we listen that there is no escape. My favorite version is that by Chris Smither, which you can hear at Grooveshark. Or you can watch the Loreena McKennitt version below.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
We must save this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod the king, in his raging,
He has ordered today
By men of might, in his own sight,
All young children done away.

O woe is me, poor child for thee!
Forever and a day,
For my leaving neither sigh nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.