Thursday, December 27, 2018


TO-DAY, beloved brethren, we are celebrating the birthday of those children, who, as the Gospel tells us, were slain by the cruel king Herod. Let the world rejoice with great gladness, because she is the fecund parent of this great and powerful army of heavenly soldiers. The heathen foe could never have benefited these little ones by his goodwill as much as he did by his hatred. THIS day's holy festival shows that in proportion as his wickedness abounded towards these blessed little ones, so was the grace of blessedness poured forth upon them. Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Juda: in thee was perpetuated the wicked crime of Herod the king; his massacre of these children: and therefore hast thou been found worthy to offer to God in one offering a white-robed multitude of innocent children.

MOST fittingly do we keep the festival of their birthday, for their birth from this world into life eternal is more blessed than that from their mothers' wombs. They attained unto life eternal and joined the ranks of the blessed before they had tasted life here on earth. THE precious death of other martyrs deserves praise for its testimony—those who have fought a good fight and finished their course; but death gave glory to these Innocents at the opening of their life, by closing it immediately. Herod in his wickedness snatched these sucklings from their mothers' breasts; rightly are they called the flowers of martyrdom, for they sprang up in the midst of the winter of unbelief, as the first opening buds of the Church, and were nipped by the frost of persecution.

St. Augustine

Office of Readings: the Venerable Bede

Hymnum canéntes mártyrum
dicámus Innocéntium,
quos terra deflens pérdidit,
gaudens sed æthra súscipit;

Quos rex perémit ímpius,
pius sed Auctor cólligit,
secum beátos cóllocans
in luce regni pérpetis.

Præclára Christo splénduit
mors ínnocens fidélium;
cælis ferébat ángeli
bimos et infra párvulos.

O quam beáta cívitas,
in qua Redémptor náscitur,
natóque primæ mártyrum
in qua dicántur hóstiæ!

Astant niténtes fúlgidis
eius throno nunc véstibus,
stolas suas qui láverant
Agni rubéntes sánguine.

Let us sing a hymn of the Innocent Martyrs, at whose destruction the earth weeps but heaven rejoices to receive them. A wicked king destroyed them but a loving Creator gathered them to himself, these blessed ones he gathered in the light of his eternal kingdom. In the presence of Christ the innocent death of the faithful brightly shone; the angels bring to heaven the little ones two years and under. O blessed city, where the Redeemer was born and by that birth is declared the first sacrifices of the martyrs.  Now before the throne they stand brightly   in shining vestments, those who wash their stoles in the red blood of the Lamb. 

Lauds: Prudentius

Audit tyránnus ánxius
adésse regum príncipem,
qui nomen Israel regat
teneátque David régiam.

Exclámat amens núntio:
«Succéssor instat, péllimur;
satélles, i, ferrum rape,
perfúnde cunas sánguine!».

Quo próficit tantum nefas?
Quid crimen Heródem iuvat?
Unus tot inter fúnera
impúne Christus tóllitur.

Salvéte, flores mártyrum,
quos lucis ipso in límine
Christi insecútor sústulit
ceu turbo nascéntes rosas.

Vos prima Christi víctima,
grex immolatórum tener,
aram sub ipsum símplices
palma et corónis lúditis.

The tyrant anxiously hears that the King of kings is coming, he who is named to rule Israel and govern the kingdom of David. Outraged he cries to the messenger: “a successor is at hand; we will be cast out: men, grab your swords: fill the cradles with blood.” What is the benefit of such an offense?  How will such a crime help Herod? Christ alone among so many dead escapes safely. Hail, flowers of the martyrs, those on the very threshold of life; the persecutor of Christ like fresh roses in the wind. You the first offerings of Christ, the tender flock of the sacrificed, under the altar you innocently play with palms and crowns.

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