Today the Church marks Holy Innocents. Hardly a feast, it is a day set aside to remember the slaughter of all children under the age of two by King Herod. The gospel of Matthew gives us the account:
“When the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
— Matthew 2:13-18
This can also be a day for us to remember and be mindful of the ‘Holy Innocents” in our own and every generation: the children, the poor, and all those who have no part in the wars or famines or disasters, yet often end up paying the greatest price. It is also a reminder for us of the children and innocents who suffer in our own country due to poverty, addiction, and/or domestic violence.
There are still a couple of days remaining in this year – perhaps a good time to make an end of year donation to places and groups whose work cares for and benefits the Holy Innocents of our own time, both here and around the world: Episcopal Relief; Heifer Project; Family Promise; Unicef; JBWS … perhaps you know of others.
Let us pray, and may our prayer lead us to action:
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, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Peace and blessing,