The Feast of the Holy Innocents , celebrated on the 28th day of December remembers the darker side of the Christmas story. Herod, who was King of Judea when the Incarnation occurred, ordered the massacre of all children under the age of two years, for fear of the “new born king” taking his throne.
Historically this event may have happened well after the birth of Christ; even up to two years. Often it is easy to lose track of time when reading the stories in the bible. The story of the nativity, having many elements crammed into a few verses tends to paint a picture of the classic Christmas manger scene with shepherds and wise men gathered around the Infant. It is more likely that the wise men arrived some time later and running into Herod, accidentally tips him off to the birth of the messiah, and so Herod commits this horrible act, slaying the innocent, who become the first martyrs.
A prophecy from Jeremiah is referenced, which speaks of Rachel, wailing for her children for they were no more. In my mind I see just the darkness of desert night, and wind blowing the sand like ashes as hollow cradles are filled with tears. It is often claimed that Christ appeared at a time when the world was at peace, and yet this is how a world at peace responds. True peace was born among us, and the world was troubled.
1When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
2Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.
3And king Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born.
5But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:
6And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel.
7Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them;
8And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him.
9Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was.
10And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.
13And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.
14Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod:
15That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying:
18A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.