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The Catholic Defender: December 28, The Feast of The Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

December 28—Feast Fourth Day in the Octave of Christmas Liturgical Color: Red Patron Saints of babies

Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother, and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Holy Innocents Day, also known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is commemorated on December 28 every year. On this day, the Catholic Church honors the first martyrs. These were the children of Israel killed by King Herod in his quest to find baby Jesus.

Isaiah 9 proclaims “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, among those who walked in the land of gloom, a light has shown.”

So, why, right in the very center of Christmas, are we commemorating this horrible atrocity?

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen.

They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts, and warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod murdered his own wife and preserved her corpse in honey. He had two of his own sons strangled to death. He routinely liquidated anyone suspected of disloyalty. He had a harem of five hundred women, a brood of illegitimate children, and a taste for the pages who served in his palace.

The Roman Emperor Augustus, Herod’s patron, stood in awe of his bloodthirst. A contemporary historian wrote that Herod was “a man of great barbarity toward everyone.” Herod was simply the most ruthless king of his time. It was this Herod whose son beheaded John the Baptist. It was this Herod who frightened Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt.

It was this Herod whose fury would have hung each of the three wise men from a beam if they had not been warned by an angel to return home by another route. And it was this Herod whose savagery is commemorated today, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. He ordered the slaughter of numerous male babies in and around Bethlehem in the hope of eliminating just one. Weighed on Herod’s distorted moral scales, many deaths were worth one cancelled threat. The reason we are commemorating it is because ours is a church of truth and there is no escaping the fact that the slaughter of the innocents did in fact happened this points to life. Evil does exist in this world and Jesus came to deliver all those who seek to overcome the evil by following the way of a new born child.

Jesus was born December 25, 2 B.C. and we know that the Magi came along between the 25th and the 31st of December as they followed the Star of Bethlehem.

Luke 2:21 tells us that on the 8th day, Jesus was circumcised according to the law.

Then 40 days later (2-3 February, Jesus is presented in the Temple at Jerusalem according to the law of Moses for Mary's purification (Luke 2:22-24). It was after this event that the Angel of the Lord appeared to the Magi in a dream and warned them to go another route and avoid King Herod (Matthew 2:12) and as they were leaving, the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and commended them to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13).

This is why Mary and Joseph fell under the radar in Jerusalem for the Presentation of Jesus!

King Herod was still awaiting word from the Magi.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Israel). She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

Estimated 14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews

December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

In the Old Testament, Pharaoh ordered the drowning of all Jewish baby boys in a desire to suppress the Israelite population and a possible threat to his rule (Exodus 1:22).

As they grew to manhood, both Moses and Christ surely were made aware of the hard sacrifices others had endured so that they could live and fulfill God’s plan of liberation for their people. Moses and Christ are united by the twin effort of harsh rulers to snuff out their lives like a candle.

Moses also stands at Christ’s side at the Transfiguration, which evokes Moses’ own transformational encounter with God at the burning bush. In many ways, then, Christ is a new Moses, the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy that God would raise up a prophet like himself to speak all that the Lord commanded (Deuteronomy 18:15–19).

These are the male children (two years old and younger) who were murdered by King Herod in an attempt to kill the Christ Child.

We do not know how many children died at the hands of Herod in February 1 B.C.

There was an ancient prophecy going back to the time of the Patriarch Jacob.

His beloved wife Rachael died right out side of where Bethlehem would be built. She died having Benjamin, her second son.

Genesis 35:16-20 states, “Then they departed from Bethel; but while they still had some distance to go on the way to Ephrath, Rachel began to be in labor and to suffer great distress. When her pangs were most severe, her midwife said to her, ‘Have no fear! This time, too, you have a son’. With her last breath–for she was at the point of death–she called him Benoni; his father, however, named him Benjamin. This Rachel dies; and she was buried on the road to Ephrath that is, Bethlehem. Jacob set up a memorial stone on her grave, and the same monument marks Rachel’s grave to this day”.

Jeremiah 31:15 states, “Thus says the Lord: In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more”.

This is a prophecy of the end of Rachel’s morning, we read the fulfillment of this prophecy Matthew 2:16-18 says, “When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more”.

What brings an end to Rachel’s morning is the Christ who lives to free all those in captivity.

Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Thus says the Lord: Cease your cries of morning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have it’s reward, says the Lord, they shall return from the enemy’s land”.

Jeremiah is prophesying that the children of Israel would return from the Babylonian Captivity, but even more than that!

Revelation 21:3-4 says, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or morning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away”.

In the name of Rachel and all that is holy, we must resolve to stop the blood flow and turn back the powers of darkness. To do that, we must oppose Satan not at certain times and certain places, but at every time and every place.

Every Catholic must be engaged, every Rosary raised and every effort made to produce more Catholics who can raise their Rosaries.

We must look beyond our own circles of comfort and find and convert prayer warriors and Holy lives wherever we can find them.

At judgment, may it be said by these holy innocents, and the thousands more who die in the womb each day and those victims of war and violence “they fought for the least of us, they fought for the likes of us”.

What could do more to infuriate the enemy than we fight on despite his most grotesque acts of barbarism against us? That is the message of Christmas. The light came into the world and the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:5), even the darkness of a day like this one.

We are living in a New Testament, a new Covenant, a new age. Rachel’s children are in heaven with Rachel.

We are reminded of the massacre of Herod because what we see today with abortion heaven hears the cry of the silent scream.

Heaven intervened with the plight of the Indian’s in Mexico in 1531 putting an end to the human sacrifices conducted there, heaven again responds to the atrocities committed against humanity today.

The Holy Innocents are few in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth—a human person, destined for eternity, and graced by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus institutes the Ministry of the Divine Mercy.

The more we spread the message of His Divine Mercy, the more children will be saved from the Herod’s of our time.

Now is the day of Salvation, now is the time!

Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, you died unnamed at the hands of a madman.

May your pristine souls, washed in blood, give hope to all who suffer unjustly, that one day their sacrifice will be rewarded with triumph, if not for themselves, then for those who follow.

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