Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Why We Wear Red

December 28th, 2009, Promulgated by Gen

Of all the feasts of the Church’s martyrs, virgins, bishops, and priests, perhaps none is more poignant than that of the Holy Innocents. Often times, these thousands of children go unheeded by people who are still caught up in the rush of Christmas, the hustle of after-Christmas shopping, the celebration of the New Year, and similar things. However, we must pay our respects to the very first of God’s Creation to fall victim to tyranny for the sake of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. While these blessed children may not have been conscious of their fate, they are wholly aware of their reward, for doubtless thousands of these kneel in the heavenly court rendering praise and thanksgiving to the God for whom they suffered the ultimate price.

On the 26th of December, the Church recognizes St. Stephen, a deacon of the early Church and the first martyr of it. He was stoned to death by the crowds for professing the divinity of Jesus Christ. In many paintings, one sees the transgressors, the begetters of murder, as pernicious Jews intent on wiping away perceived infidelity to the Word. However, in some renderings of this event, one sees St. Stephen, eyes turned unto Heaven, being stoned by the Jews who are led by a little child, whose rock is about to deliver St. Stephen into the Heavenly court. It is no coincidence that within thirty years, the children of Judea went from silent and pitiful martyrdom at the hands of Jewish authorities and Roman swords to being the zealous postulators of the same creed which had eradicated their own brothers.

“He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts.” The later children of Judea were, in fact, blinded by the light of Christ. In their blindness, however, they did not reach out in humility as did St. Paul. No, on the contrary, the flailed their arms in fear and anger, and attempted to banish from existence the Word of God and His disciples. The children who suffered martyrdom for the sake of Our Lord were never blinded by greed, by hate, by political games and malicious social tactics designed to keep at arm’s length those who truly needed the light, that in their blindness, they might turn towards the Lord.

Now this blindness is no physical, medical condition. It is a purposeful rejection of Truth as revealed by Jesus Christ and professed by His Church. The Holy Innocents never had a chance to reject the light. Instead, God in His most infinite mercy welcomed them without hesitation into the celestial court. Had these children lived, they may have, indeed, rejected Our Lord. This was not the case. Free will of many was taken away by the free will of King Herod, whose heart was blind with the same blindness which brought about the martydom of St. Stephen. The blood of these early martyrs, St. Stephen and the Holy Innocents, nourished the early Church and continues to nourish the modern Church – which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, never changing from age to age. The outer trappings may change, yes, but never will the purpose of exposing to all the world the light, which blinding in itself, rescues us from the blindness of hate, of malice and greed, of perfidy, and of faithlessness in all its forms.

The two blindnesses of Christendom have been constant for two thousand years, for two millenia. Nothing has changed. There are apostates, and children of God follow them to their own spiritual demises. There are saints and blesseds, and children of God follow them to their own spiritual gratification. In our blindness, which we all have – there is no doubt – we have two options: we can attack the darkness, with the immature conception that we, in our weak and timid human state, can dispel the darkness, or we can abandon ourselves to Christ, who alone brings light into our lives and strength and grace into each and every day of our Earthly existence.

The Holy Innocents, those precious and blameless children who suffered the honor of being the first to die for Christ, were given the undeniable gift of finding Christ in the darkness of their world. Their blood, and the blood of all subsequent martyrs of the Catholic faith, has brought us to the point where we can discern darkness from darkness, where we can discern trust in God or a contempt of God. Satan is the “Prince of Darkness,” for in darkness, we are thought to be alone, with no hope for rescue or redemption. However, God created all, and is present even in the emptiness of time. The power of Satan yields to the serenity of God, which can be grasped at all points and all places in Creation, even in the darkness of ignorance. Do not flee to evil when confronted with darkness. No, even then, in the blackness of the soul and the society, reach out your hands and pray, hope, trust in the Divine, that your outstretched hand, which God created, will be met with the hand of God Himself.

It is for this reason that we wear red. The Holy Innocents bled and died in the darkness of man’s sinful nature. However, they were found in the darkness of human error, and borne aloft into heaven, to bask in the Heavenly light of Our Lord. The red which we see at Mass, the red which reminds us of their supreme sacrifice, is not there to match the poinsettias of Christmas, nor the bows of the Christmas wreathes. No. It is there to point at each of us and ask, “what will you do in the darkness of your life? Will you abandon God and make more martyrs, or will you empty yourself of human weakness and throw yourself in martyrdom at the feet of God?” We are all called to be martyrs in this day. We may suffer martyrdom in society, we may suffer a literal matryrdom for reaching out to those who must be helped, we may suffer martyrdom in every sanctuary of every church, and we may suffer martyrdom even in our own families. We wear red to commemorate the martyrdom, the real and bloody martyrdom, of those who love God above all else, and who reached out to Him in the darkness, finding His face, and basking in the light from whence all Creation comes.

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