Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents

On the 28th December, the Holy Innocents – innocent children – are remembered. This poem is called “Like a Child


The bishop holds him

            like a child


And in his nakedness

            we see our own condition


Without impressiveness

            without pretence



            to grace.


It takes its inspiration from the moment in St. Francis of Assisi’s life when he renounced his father dramatically by literally stripping off all his clothes (which belonged to his father), leaving him naked. The local bishop helped to retain his dignity.

This image by Sassseta shows a very childlike St. Francis…

Sassetta Saint Francis renounces his Earthly Father https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG4758

But this image by Giotto really captures the conflict the best, in my opinion, with the angry father being restrained on one side, and St. Francis on the other, looking up to his Heavenly Father (see the hand at the top of the fresco):

There is some very striking art commemorating the Holy Innocents, perhaps none more horrifying than this painting by Poussin, which always cuts me to the heart:

Poussin, ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’

I’m going to return to the less troubling image at the top of this post, which focuses on some lines from my poem – on what we might retain as adults from our infant days…

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