Christian: Mourn the Holy Innocents on Childermas

Holy Innocents with St. John. Photo in public domainWEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28: Today, try singing the Coventry Carol for the children, traditionally regarded in the Christian Church as the Holy Innocents, the youngest and first martyrs. Matthew’s Gospel describes King Herod’s order for the massacre of all infant boys in Bethlehem, following news of a “newborn king of the Jews;” Scripture indicates that there was “sobbing and loud lamentation.”

Accounts handed down vary in number from more than 10,000 infants to a relatively small number. Although absolutely ruthless, historians can’t deny that this ruler was capable of such an act. He already had killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands (among many others). Above all, Herod feared any threat to his throne, and he took any means necessary to protect his royalty. (Wikipedia has details.) According to the traditional story: When Herod heard about the “newborn king,” he told traveling magi/astrologers to report back to him on the location of the king, so that he might honor him, too; in reality, Herod wanted to kill the boy. After being warned by an angel, the magi took an alternate route home after seeing the baby Jesus.

The Christian Church has been memorializing the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28 (Childermas) since the sixth century, and the chillingly beautiful Coventry Carol laments the death of these children. (Hear the Westminster Cathedral Choir sing this tune on YouTube.) Christians today can commemorate the victims by promoting or donating to children’s welfare issues worldwide; raising awareness about adoption; or hosting the blessing of children in their own households. (Get more ideas from Women for Faith and Family and FishEaters.) Customs include serving dishes with a red raspberry sauce or letting young ones “rule” the household for the day.

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