28 December 2009

Holy Innocents

28 DECEMBER 2009. Today, the fourth day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

As accounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2, 16-18), King Herod of Judea ordered that all male children under the age of two in the Village of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas be executed to protect his throne from the newborn King of the Jews, as reported to him by the Magi. Historical accounts number the holy innocents from several dozen to tens of thousands. The Church claims these male children as the first Christian martyrs, and gives them the title of Holy Innocents.

While the date of the Church's introduction of the Feast of the Holy Innocents is uncertain, it is known that the Western Church celebrated the feast before the end of the fifth century. It can be found, with the Feasts of Saint Stephen and Saint John, in the Leonine Sacramentary, which dates to A.D. 485.

In Bethlehem, the Feast is a Holy Day of Obligation.


We remember today, O God, 
the slaughter of the holy innocents 
of Bethlehem by King Herod. 
Receive, we pray, into the arms 
of your mercy all innocent victims; 
and by your great might frustrate the designs 
of evil tyrants and establish your rule 
of justice, love, and peace; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


Nota Bene. In today's world, where so many innocents are killed by abortion, abuse, and other cruelties, it would be a commendable prayer exercise today to begin a Novena for the Unborn.

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