Tag Archives: Holy Innocents

Let the infants leap up.

Today we remember The Holy Innocents, the 14,000 infants slain by King Herod in Bethlehem after Christ’s birth, thus becoming the first martyrs for Christ; and all who died as martyrs for the glory of God by hunger, thirst, freezing, and the sword. This summary of the events is helpful:

The Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshiped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children. (From Orthodox Wiki)

There is also a reference to Rachel in the Gospel passage telling of the slaughter, a quote from the Prophet Jeremiah:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
the dominion of the Jews was abolished.
Let the infants slaughtered for Christ leap up,
and let Judea lament;
for a voice was heard in Rama:
Rachel, weeping, bewaileth her children,
as it is written,
for the all-iniquitous Herod
in slaying the babes fulfilled the Scriptures,
filling Judea with innocent blood
and staining the earth red with their blood,
but the Church of the nations
is mystically purified thereby
and is arrayed in beauty.
The Truth is come!
God Who hath been born of the Virgin
hath appeared to those who sit in shadow,
that He may save us all.
-Hymn for the feast

This is the Wisdom of Man.

“I have stood near the cave of St. Jerome in Bethlehem, and seen the recently excavated graves of the Holy Innocents. There are a mass of infant burials, clearly made in haste, with evidence of violence, all dating to the first century. It is not a Biblical myth but a crime scene as gruesome as any that we could imagine. This is the Wisdom of Man.

“The Wisdom of Man measures strength and power by the ability to administer brute force. Whether a sword or nuclear weapon – power is defined by physics. Were the power that confronted us measured in the same manner, victory could be as simple as a mathematical equation. But the power of God, the Wisdom of God, that confronted King Herod and all the so-called “rulers” of this world, belonged to a realm that is wholly other.”

-Father Stephen Freeman, in this article: “The Wisdom of Man and the Foolishness of God”

Troparion:

As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers,
As divine first-fruits and newborn lambs,
You were offered to Christ who was born as a child, Holy Innocents.
You mocked Herod’s wickedness;
Now we beseech you:
“Unceasingly pray for our souls.”