The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Reading 1 John 1:5—2:2
Gospel Matthew 2:13-18

Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ….

As did the feast of St. Stephen the Proto-Martyr, today’s feast on the fourth day in the Christmas Octave points our attention to the way in which birth and death are intertwined. Birth and death are not just ends of an earthly spectrum. The link between them is more profound than that.

Of course, today’s feast commemorates not the experience of natural death, or even the death of martyrs who chose to offer themselves in witness to Christ. The horror at the heart of today’s feast—the slaughter of untold innocent infants by a king—stands as a stark contrast to the joy of the Nativity.

Nonetheless, King Herod in his rage and fear takes seriously the threat that the newborn king poses to his earthly power, even if he doesn’t understand the purpose of this infant’s birth into this world. Certainly the reign of Christ the King will put an end to the thrones of all earthly powers. But Christ is the King of Kings. Unlike Herod, He seeks to destroy no one, but to give life to everyone, and to give it to the full. Even for those who seek the end of His earthly life, Christ reigns to give them unending life in Heaven.