Christmas is a time of great celebration and festivities.
The time after Christmas is often a phase of getting through with many cakes, sweets, food…
>> The foodstuff prepared for the occasion often exceeds the required amount and thus, it needs a few more days to consume it fully….
Something similar also happens in the spiritual realm…
For many people, the spiritual significance of an event like Christmas cannot be absorbed and completed in a day.
It’s like trying to comprehend the grandeur of some magnificent places like the St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican or the Taj Mahal in Agra or the Niagara Falls or other greater and dazzling sites, in one walk-through.
It’s not too easy.
>>We have to return back to those experiences, in order to grasp greater, the beauty and the splendour.
So it is with the spectacular event of the Nativity..
We need more time to comprehend about the Christmas Night, more time to understand the Virgin Birth, more time to realise that God came down to earth as a tender Babe for our salvation etc…
As a result, the Church gives us seven additional days to contemplate these divine mysteries.
These extra days on the liturgical calendar, along with the feast day – eight in total – is called as The Christmas Octave.
Every day of the Christmas Octave is filled with meaning that reflects back on the Nativity – not just the birth of Christ, but the impact, the reality and the consequence of that birth in the lives of different people.
It’s interesting to note that each of the three days following the Feast of Christmas, commemorates a different type of martyrdom…
1) Dec 26th – the Feast of St Stephen – the Martyrdom of the Will, Love and Blood:
>> By His powerful witness, St Stephen was stoned to death in act that was completely willed by him, totally offering his Love for Jesus & shedding his blood.
2) Dec 27th – the Feast of St John – the Martyrdom of the Will and Love:
>> By a life of immense faithfulness & total dedication, lived with a tremendous passion and fervour, St John suffered the martyrdom of the Will and of Love.
3) Dec 28th – the Feast of the Holy Innocents – the Martyrdom of Blood:
>> On coming to know of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered that males under the age of two should be executed. These little babies, too little and young to form a will and a desire to love, became martyrs of Blood. (Mt 2:16)
>> Their innocent blood came in defence of the blood of their Divine Contemporary – Baby Jesus, who would grant salvation to them by His Precious Blood!
On this fourth Day of the Christmas Octave, Dec 28th, Holy Mother the Church celebrates the Feast of The Holy Innocents – the martyrs of Blood
The news that a new King of the Jews was born, caused great ordeal for King Herod (Mt 2: 3)
>> He became all the more furious, when he heard that the Magi had deceived him (Mt 2:16)
The easiest solution found was to kill all the males under the age of two.
To react negatively, in a situation of hardship, often seems to be the easiest way out.
>> But it is an extremely cheap and low way of going about
But Herod fell into this snare of “negative reaction” and had little babies killed.
>> These little babies, too little and young to form a will and a desire to love, became martyrs of Blood. (Mt 2:16)
St Augustine would say, “they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead!”
The number of children killed is uncertain.
There are a number of views on the actual number of children who were killed.
>> The Byzantine Liturgy (Greek) says that Herod killed 14, 000 boys
>> The Syrian Liturgy speaks of 64,000.
>> Another scholarly study suggests that Bethlehem was a very small town, at the time of Jesus, with a population of maybe 300. The number of children below the age of two could be very less – maybe six or seven.
But the fact remains, that it was a tragic gravely foul and grievously painful.
The death of the little children is a reminder that our earthly life is a pilgrimage…
… to be oriented for the eternal life in heaven
The dreadful massacre of the innocent children can easily cause a question to arise in us:
>> Why did God allow the helpless death of the children before their own parents?
>> Why did these little children have to be murdered, for saving the Divine Child?
>> Could not God have planned a noble way of saving Him?
Such questions can easily cause our faith to be disturbed or even be scandalised by the ways of God
But it brings home an important truth: Our earthly life is a pilgrimage.
>> No one knows how long we will live – some die in infancy, some in their old age; some die prepared, some suddenly and tragically.
This is the reality that we find in the world – we like it or not, we accept or not.
It therefore, is a call for us, to nurture life in the best way possible …
>>> Our own lives by living in holiness and fidelity to the Will of God
>>> Preserving, nurturing and enhancing the lives of others – including the little infants in the wombs.
This commemoration of the Holy Innocents is a reminder to open our eyes to see the tragedies of the world and become courageous torchbearers of justice
This passage of King Herod and the Holy Innocents, might sometimes seem to be like…
… “the unwarranted bone” in the tasty meal of Christmas
… or the “jarring note” in the melodious music of Christ’s Nativity.
We often like to live in “cosy and comfortable” situations – even if it means, closing our eyes to the stark and tragic realities of life
But it is the obligation of every Christian to “get out of every comfort zone”…
… and enter into the “suffering sections” of the society, and give them hope, consolation and life.
The “cry of the mothers of the innocent children”…
… Mt 2:18 – “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation”…
is also a “Carol”, that is heard every Christmas
Yes, may we deeply understand that Christmas – the birth of Christ, ought to not simply be a “festival of fun or frolic”…
… but also should lead us to hear the many “cries of innocents” today – the oppressed and the abused, the voiceless and the helpless, the sinful and the lonely etc.
Salutations to the Holy Innocents and Glory to the Divine Babe, Jesus!
God Bless! Live Jesus!