In the Office of Readings for today, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is a sermon from St. Quodvultdeus, bishop.
“Who?” I thought. So here is his story:
Quodvultdeus was a father of the church. He lived in Carthage in the early fifth century, and he became a deacon in 421 A.D. He corresponded with St. Augustine, who served as his spiritual mentor; and like Augustine, he was an opponent of Arianism. Augustine dedicated some of his writings to Quodvultdeus.
When Carthage was captured by Genseric, King of the Vandals and Alans, Quodvultdeus and other Catholic clergy were exiled—loaded onto leaky ships bound toward Naples. His ship reached Naples in 439 A.D., and Quodvultdeus settled in Italy. There, he delivered a series of creedal homilies which still exist today, and which strongly reflect the influence of St. Augustine.
Quodvultdeus is buried in the Catacombs of Gennaro, where he is depicted in one of the mosaic burial portraits in the Galleria dei Vescovi.
His unusual name actually means “What God Wants.”
Second Reading in the Office of Readings
for December 28
Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs
Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655
A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.
Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.
You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.
Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.
But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.
How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.