Today the Church remembers the Holy Innocents, the children mentioned in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2:16-18.
When Herod realized that the wise men had tricked him, and were not returning to tell him where they had found the child Jesus, he sent his soldiers to kill all male children ages two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah: A voice in Rama was heard, of lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailed her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not.
The Greek Liturgy estimates that Herod killed 14,000 boys, the Syrians, 64,000, and many medieval authors put the number at 144,000. Based on the size of Bethlehem, modern writers have estimated anywhere from 6-20 boys killed at Herod’s order.
Although we don’t know the exact date that the Holy Innocents died, the Church venerates them as martyrs on this day. They are the first to die for the Church, not only for Christ, but in his place.
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