An Angry King
During the octave of Christmas, there are many special feasts that the Church gives us to celebrate! One of them, December 28, is the feast of the Holy Innocents. This day commemorates the baby boys who were murdered by an order of King Herod.
After the Magi did not return to King Herod, he was furious! He was still afraid that the newborn King of the Jews would pose a threat to his power. King Herod ordered his soldiers to kill every baby boy ages three and younger. He wanted to make sure that the baby king was killed and would not threaten his power.
These babies bear witness to Christ through the giving of their lives even though their sacrifice was not a conscious one because they were so small. They are considered the very first martyrs – even before Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the early Church. These martyrs died not only for Christ, but in place of Christ.
Saint Joseph was warned in a dream that Herod was going to kill Jesus, so Mary, Joseph, and Jesus escaped to Egypt and Jesus was not killed.
Ways to Celebrate the Holy Innocents
There are some simple ways to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
The father of the family can bless his children. One way is to trace the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say, “May God bless you and protect you and may the angels watch over you.”
Another tradition is letting the youngest child decide on what food will be eaten that day and other activities.
There is a beautiful song called the Coventry Carol that tells of the killing of the innocent children. It is a very somber song but beautiful.
Things to Remember
This feast day is a good reminder that God is in control of every situation that happens. King Herod thought that he could thwart God’s plan through his cruelty, but God is ultimately in control. It may seem cruel that all those children died in place of Christ, but their sacrifice gives to the Church these little saints who are rejoicing in Heaven now! We should remember to pray to the Holy Innocents for courage in face of difficulty.
After the joys of the Christmas season it is helpful to have this somber feast to remind us of the sacrifice that is involved in being a Christian and in following Christ wherever he goes.