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Tuesday, 23 April 2024
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The Holy Innocents


The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the Holy Innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light: 
He came to his own house, and his own people received him not John 1:11

As on the frontispiece of our website at Christmas (see below right), the cross and the crib are never far apart. Jesus' whole life was lived under the sign of persecution, and his followers share this with him. The liturgy of the days, immediately after the day of Jesus' birth, brings us in touch with the bitter reality of what it means, for some, to follow Christ. It highlights the martyrdom of Stephen, John, Thomas A'Beckett and, in today's feast, the Holy Innocents.

Today the Church honours the infants slain by Herod within two years, following the apparition of the star to the Wise Men. We remember today, too, the holy innocents of our times, the aborted fruit of the womb, amounting to countless millions of lives.

Jesus' later return from Egypt, upon the death of Herod, recalls the exodus under Moses, and presents Him as the promised liberator of God's people (from sin).

Matthew 2:13-18

". . .After the wise men had left, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him'. So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet : I called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11:1)

Herod was furious when he realised that he had been outwitted by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were two years old or under, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loudly lamenting:
it was Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted
because they were no more.
"             (Jeremiah 31:15)

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Holy Innocents