On Day 20 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “King Herod and the Holy Innocents”
WHAT IT IS?
On coming to know of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered that males under the age of two should be executed.
These little ones, became the first martyrs for Christ; the Church keeps their glorious memory on Dec 28.
WHAT ELEMENTS CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS CHRISTMAS GOODIE – “KING HEROD AND THE HOLY INNOCENTS?”
- The blood of the Innocent Babies, came in defence of the blood of their Divine Contemporary – Baby Jesus, who would grant salvation to them by His Precious Blood!
The news that a new King of the Jews was born, caused great ordeal for King Herod.
The easiest solution found was to kill all the males under the age of two.
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; but the fact remains, that it was a tragic gravely foul and grievously painful.
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 number is most certainly not a factor to reduce the facts: the intensity of the heartbreak or the cruelty of the tragedy or the greatness of the sacrifice.
- The event exposes the immense cruelty that “the craze for power and authority” can indulge itself in
King Herod was called as the Great. He was known as the “the greatest builder in Jewish history”. In his days, he held at least three architectural world records: the Largest Palace (Lower Herodium), the Largest Plaza (Temple Mount) and the Largest Royal Portico (Temple Mount).
Yet, towards the end of his reign, he became a “paranoid” ( = a psychological state in which the person has delusions [false beliefs] that a person or some individuals are plotting against them).
Herod, the Great Ruthless, had killed many in his own family:
• He eliminated his brother-in-law, Aristobulus, by drowning him in the swimming pool of the winter palace in Jericho
• He had his mother-in-law Alexandra executed
• He killed his second wife Miriamme (she was his beloved, whom he loved unto death!)
• He had two of his sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamme, strangled to death
• He also killed his third son, Antipater, five days before his own death!
Caesar Augustus would later say “It is better to be Herod’s ‘ous’ [=pig] than ‘houios’ [=son]” (Since Herod was a Jew and would not eat pork, his pig would be safe. But his sons were not safe!)
Before his death, Herod realized that nobody would mourn for him at his death. So he ordered all the notable Jews from all parts of his kingdom to come to him in Jericho under penalty of death. This diabolical scheme would ensure that there would be mourning when he died – even if, it was not for him!
The news that a new King was born for the Jews, caused immense agony and fear to King Herod (Mt 2:3) and thus, brought about the elimination of all the tiny ones (Mt 2:16)
The obsession for power and the lust for supremacy, is a cancerous malady that is increasing in our own world today – in families, in the society, and unfortunately, even in the Church.
- The ‘cry of the mothers of the innocent’ is another dimension of the “Christmas Carol”
Our celebration of Christmas is very often drowned in the “festive noise” of joyful singing, merry gatherings, lavish parties etc.
But 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
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.
- 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 these little children have to be murdered, for saving the Divine Child? Could not God have planned a noble way of saving Him? Why did God allow the helpless death of the children before their own parents?”
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; and a powerful exhortation to preserve, nurture and enhance the lives of others – including the little infants in the wombs.
- Christmas reminds us to open our eyes to see the tragedies of the world and become courageous torch-bearers of justice
This passage of King Herod and the Holy Innocents, is very often missed in our Christmas reflections.
This might be since, this incident seems 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
It is the duty and 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.
Only then can we truly call ourselves as Christians – followers of the Christ, who abandoned every comfort, risked His life to the point of death and gave His life in total self-giving!
WHAT RESOLUTIONS CAN I PRACTISE TODAY?
Today I will seek to know the sufferings of people around me, letting go of my own “self” worries and seek to become a giver of life, encouragement and consolation
Today I will take a decision to promote life at all levels – of my own, by developing all my potentials to the full, for the Glory of God; and of those around me.
Lord, through the intercessions of the Holy Innocents, I pray that I may be your courageous witness in the world, and to always trust in you, even in the face of oppression and evil, Amen!
MARANATHA – COME, LORD JESUS!
We welcome you into our hearts! God Bless!