A Word from a Forgotten Church Leader: Quodvultdeus on Death of the Innocents

While most of us have heard of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, much fewer may have heard of Quodvultdeus, Bishop of Carthage. His name literally means “what God wills” in Latin. He was a 5th century church father in North Africa who corresponded with Augustine, who served as a spiritual mentor to him. Becoming bishop of Carthage in the years after Augustine’s passing, Quodvultdeus exhorted orthodox clergy to care for their flocks as Arian Vandals invaded North Africa from Spain, unleashing intense persecution. In a homily on The Creed, Quodvultdeus here addresses the death of the holy innocents described in Matthew 2.

The great King is born a little Child. Wise men come from afar to adore him who lives in a manger even while he rules heaven and earth. When these wise men proclaim that a king has been born, Herod grows fearful of losing his kingdom and therefore seeks to kill him. Yet if Herod had believed in him, he would be safe in his earthly kingdom and, moreover, would rule forever in the life to come!

Why so fearful, Herod, at the news of the newborn King? He comes not to cast you out but to conquer Satan. You do not realize this, and you fall into anxious rage; to destroy the one Child you seek you cruelly kill so many. Neither mothers’ tears nor fathers’ grief, nor the cries of the children themselves touch you. Fear kills you, and you kill them. You think that if you succeed in your purpose, you can live longer, yet you are trying to kill Life itself!

The Fountain of grace, the mighty One who lies small in the manger, brings terror to your heart. Yet through you he is pursuing his purposes, freeing people from Satan’s chains. The babes unwittingly die for Christ, and the parents weep for Christ’s martyrs. He makes them, though mute, fit witnesses to himself. But you are ignorant of all this, and you rage in your fear. You persecute the infants and serve Christ without realizing it.

How great is God’s favor! Those children had not merits to win them such a victory. They cannot speak, yet they confess Christ! They cannot advance to conflict, yet they carry off the palm of victory.

From a homily on The Creed by St. Quodvultdeus.

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