Massacre

The Coventry Carol: A Pro-Life Hymn

The Coventry Carol is a 14th-16th century English Christmas Carol. It is the second of three songs in a traditional Nativity Pageant, a lament sung by the women of Bethlehem, immediately after Joseph is warned by an angel to take his family to Egypt—now, they face the specter of a horrific slaughter:
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
Bye bye, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

Very appropriately, the carol is now often sung at Childermas (also known as Kindermord or the Feast of the Innocents) when Christians traditionally solemnizes the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod (Matthew 2:1-18). It provides focus for the Christian Community’s calling and commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of all human life–and thus in some ways the Coventry Carol is one of the church’s earliest pro-life hymns.

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