The Feast Of the Holy Innocents and Our Holy Innocents Today, Martyrs
Today we commemorate the Holy Innocents. Children under the age of two in Bethlehem were massacred by Herod the Great in an attempt to kill the child Jesus. We call these Holy Innocents, martyrs, because they died in the place of Christ. St. Augustine called them “buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves.”
In modern times, we have our own “holy innocents” — those children who are killed daily in the place that should be the safest and most protective environment of all for them — their mother’s wombs. On this day, we recall the over 55 million children in our country alone (since 1973) and the vast number of children throughout the world who have been killed under the insane laws permitting abortion. Let us pray daily for an end to this tragedy.
The Holy Innocents
Today, dearest brethren, we celebrate the birthday of those children who were slaughtered, as the Gospel tells us, by that exceedingly cruel king, Herod. Let the earth, therefore, rejoice and the Church exult — she, the fruitful mother of so many heavenly champions and of such glorious virtues. Never, in fact, would that impious tyrant have been able to benefit these children by the sweetest kindness as much as he has done by his hatred. For as today’s feast reveals, in the measure with which malice in all its fury was poured out upon the holy children, did heaven’s blessing stream down upon them.
“Blessed are you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah! You suffered the inhumanity of King Herod in the murder of your babes and thereby have become worthy to offer to the Lord a pure host of infants. In full right do we celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life rather than that from their mothers’ womb, for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The precious death of any martyr deserves high praise because of his heroic confession; the death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. For already at the beginning of their lives they pass on. The end of the present life is for them the beginning of glory. These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.
~ St. Augustine
Let us ask the Holy Innocents to intercede for us that we may bring about a renewed respect for human life in our society, to build a culture of life, protect the innocents in our day and comfort those who mourn.
Father, you sent your only Son to die, that all the children of this world might live and grow to fullness in the kingdom He proclaimed. Transform in the hearts of all people the forces of violence, cruelty and destruction into one saving force of love, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.