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from issue no. 12 - 2008

Children killed because of Jesus

From the Mystery of the Holy Innocents by Charles Péguy

<I>The slaughter of the Innocents</I>, detail, Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

The slaughter of the Innocents, detail, Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

They were torn away from men:
(from among men, from in the midst of men,
from being men)
(The greatest saints were men,
they were not torn from being men)
and in their mouth was found no lie:
they are without blemish before the throne
of God...
And after the Apostle the Church repeats: Innocentes pro Christo infantes occisi sunt.
The Innocents for Christ
were massacred while infants.
(infantes, little children, every little child who still does not speak)
Ab iniquo rege
lactentes interfecti sunt:
By an evil king
sucklings were killed:
(lactentes, full of milk, milky, at the age
of milk, still on a diet of milk, fed on milk)
ipsum sequuntur Agnum sine macula
they follow the Lamb without blemish
(and the text is such, my child, that it is both the Lamb who is without blemish and
they with him who are without blemish)...
Salvete, flores Martyrum, these children
of not even two years old are the flowers
of all the other martyrs.
That is the flowers that produce
the other martyrs.
Just at the beginning of April they are
the pink flowers of the peach tree.
In full April, right at the beginning
of May they are the white flowers
of the pear tree.
In full May they are the red flowers
of the apple tree.
White and red...
They are the flower itself and the bud
of the flower and the down of the bud.
They are the burgeoning of the branch
and the burgeoning of the flower.
They are the glory of April and they are
sweet hope.
They are the glory of the woods and the months.
They are early childhood...
They are the flower of the hawthorn that flowers in Holy Week.
And the blossom of the forerunner, the blackthorn, that flowers five weeks earlier. of these blood-bedewed roses.
Salvete, flores Martyrum,
Hail, flowers of the Martyrs,
quos, lucis ipso in limine,
Christi insecutor sustulit,
ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
that, just on the threshold of light,
the persecutor of Christ kidnapped,
(tore away)
ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
As a tempest the budding roses.
(that is, as the tempest, as a tempest sweeps off, carries away the budding roses).
Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.
You, first victims for Christ,
Infant flock of sacrifices,
Even on the steps of the altar, simple ones,
Simplices, simple souls, simple children,
Palma et coronis luditis. You play with
the palm and the crown. With your palm and your crown.
Such is my Paradise, says God. My Paradise could not be simpler.
Nothing is less elaborate than my Paradise.
Aram sub ipsam, on the steps of the altar itself
These simple children play with their palms and their martyrs’ crowns.
That’s what happens in my Paradise.
Whatever can they play at
with palms and martyrs’ crowns?
I believe they play at hoops, God says,
and perhaps at quoits (at least I believe so, because don’t think
that they ever ask my permission)
And the ever-green palm serves them,
it seems, as a hoop-stick.

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