In the midst of the joyful celebrations of Christmas, the Church annually inserts the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28. This feast recalls the massacre of the male children of Bethlehem at the order of Herod the Great. Herod, who ruled as king of the Jews under Roman authority during the infancy of Christ, is known for his cruelty and the deadly manner in which he deposed of any whom he saw as threats to his reign. Thus, when he heard news from the wise men in the Gospel account of one “who [had] been born king of the Jews…” he resorted to his usual tactics. In order to make certain that the future king would not survive, he ordered the execution of all the male children age 2 and under who were born anywhere in the vicinity of this new king.
These innocent souls are considered the first martyrs because they were the first to be put to death on account of Christ. Many have written eloquently on the sacrifice that these young innocents made 2,000 years ago. You could say that these young souls laid down their lives for the sake of the One who would bring about their eternal salvation. The role that they played in our salvation can perhaps speak to us today. We may often be unaware of the effect that our lives bear on eternal realities. As members of Christ’s mystical body, our prayers, actions, sacrifices, sufferings, and our very existence can have meaningful impact on the rest of the body.
Reflecting on the death of these innocents can remind us of all those whose lives are ended due to abortion. The word of the prophet Jeremiah cited in Matthew at the tragic and horrific loss of so many innocents rings true in our day. "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more."
During this time of rejoicing during the Christmas Octave, let us prayerfully ponder the meaning of the sacrifice of the Holy Innocents and the infinite value of each and every soul in the eyes of God.