Christmas is all things beautiful: consolation, awe, gratitude, and joy.
Yet during this happy time of year, the Church invites us to ponder and remember the violent deaths of some of our most glorious martyrs: the Holy Innocents.
Today, in the midst of our Christmas joy, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, also known as Childermas. This feast commemorates the children slaughtered by the barbaric King Herod, whose goal was to kill the Christ Child and preserve his own power. The Holy Innocents died in Christ’s stead so that He could die in ours.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by 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 were no more.
We consider the Holy Innocents to be some of the first martyrs of the Church. Although they were too young to proclaim Christ with their voices, they proclaimed Him with their lives. When they sacrificed their lives for a Name they did not know, they shed their blood just as He would later in His life. The Holy Innocents died because of Him and for Him. They gave their precious lives so that God’s plan could be fulfilled in Him.
Although these innocent children were not baptized Christians nor able to enter martyrdom willingly, they are considered martyrs through Christ. Just as Christ makes saints of babies in water baptism every day, he gave the Holy Innocents the grace of becoming saints and martyrs.
While our Christmas joy is tinged with sadness on this particular day, we celebrate these children’s glorious place in heaven and their incredible gift to us all.
Now, the Holy Innocents reign in heaven in the company of the saints and angels. Often, because the saints dwell in heaven, we think of them as distant and different from us. However, this is not true! The saints lived lives like ours and long for us to join them in heaven. Dr. Scott Hahn’s beloved book, Angels and Saints – A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones, is a powerful account of the lives of the saints that demonstrates how we can model our own lives off their own very human ones. By exploring the variety of saints (and some angels too!), this book becomes a roadmap to living a saintly life just as they did. Available today from The Catholic Company!