Iceland has almost entirely eliminated children with Down syndrome.
In a reenactment of the massacre of the Holy Innocents there is once again a state-sponsored effort to erase innocent children. Would it surprise you to hear that King Herod and the modern state share the same motivations?
King Herod killed those young martyrs because they heralded the in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven and the end of his reign. A new king had come who would rule over all the nations. These children, in their likeness to the Christ-child, were an echo of the trumpet that will sound at the Last Day and announce the end of all earthly authority. This petty king could not bear to hear, and could not tolerate their existence.
The new holy innocents likewise herald the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. If you look up parents’ testimonies about their children with Down syndrome you will find three common threads. There is great difficulty; there is greater joy; and there is the greatest lesson. These children, unable and unwilling to compete in the rat-race of modern life, show us by the witness of their lives what is most important. They teach us how to order our lives according to something transcendent. One mother writes that “I appreciate my daughter for teaching me how to love.” Another describes a love that is “the purest thing you’ll ever experience. I am talking about selfless, sincere, unconditional and powerful love for others and for life.” There is difficulty, yes, but joy and simplicity as well. In their simple love they teach us about the Kingdom that is to come. Their lives, cut off from modern vanities and animated by incredible joy, strain towards heaven. They are a sign, a flashing neon sign that cannot be ignored, shouting at us that this earthly kingdom is passing away. They show us how it is being inevitably supplanted by transcendent realities.
Is it any wonder that the kingdoms of this earth cannot tolerate these children? Is it any surprise that the authorities of this world would conspire to blot out this sign, and to silence the announcement of their own impermanence and impotence? Is it unexpected that the sophisticated modern state would deem the death of children an acceptable price to pay?
Yet the Kingdom of Heaven will not be stopped, and injustice will not endure. We know that they contend in vain. After all, the psalmist foretold all this and more long ago:
Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
They arise, the kings of the earth;
princes plot against the LORD and his Anointed.
“Let us burst asunder their fetters.
Let us cast off from us their chains.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the LORD derides and mocks them.
Then he will speak in his anger,
his rage will strike them with terror.
“It is I who have appointed my king
on Sion, my holy mountain.”
I will announce the decree of the LORD:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son.
It is I who have begotten you this day.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations as your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth as your possession.
With a rod of iron you will rule them;
like a potter’s jar you will shatter them.”
So now, O kings, understand;
take warning, rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear;
exult with trembling, pay him your homage,
lest he be angry and you perish on the way,
for suddenly his anger will blaze.
Blessed are all who trust in God!
Image: Gustave Dore, The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents.