14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem
Commemoration of all Orthodox Christians who have died from hunger, thirst, the sword, and freezing.
Athenodorus, disciple of St. Pachomius the Great (4th century) and Benjamin of Nitria (392)
Marcellus, Abbot of the Monastery of the Unsleeping Ones (“the Ever-Vigilant”)(485)
Thaddeus, Confessor, of the Studion Monastery (818)
Saint George, Bishop of Nicomedia, composer of Canons and Troparia (c .857 – 891)
Saint Basiliscus, Elder, the Hesychast of Siberia (Turinsk) (1824)
Commemorated on December 29
Hymn of Praise
The Fourteen Thousand Holy Children of Bethlehem
by St Nikolai Velimirovich
A voice in Rama was heard, and much weeping,
And sorrowful mothers crying out to God.
In blood lay the slaughtered children,
And, over them, sorrowful mothers lamented.
The city of David, with all the surrounding region, moans;
Heaven was horrified at the misdeed of men;
Heaven and earth were horrified and quaked,
When the screams of the innocent pierced the air.
The blow intended for the Son of God
Fell with its weight on the innocent children,
Upon young and helpless ones of the same age as Christ.
The servants of the wicked king attacked
Where the angels of God sang
And where Christ’s shepherds humbly knelt.
There a torrent of blood flowed.
Why? In order that Herod would always be first!
As soon as the Eternal Physician appeared on earth,
The earth revealed its wounds and sins,
Showing how much mankind is infected,
And how necessary healing from heaven is.
Upon the young forerunners of His suffering,
Christ bestowed the eternal joy of Paradise.
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by St Nikolai Velimirovich,
The Divine Child
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
“The eternal God was born as a little child.”…It is the words “child” and “God” which give us the most striking revelation about the Christmas mystery.
Yes, Christmas is a feast for children, not just because of the tree that we decorate and light, but in the much deeper sense that children alone are unsurprised that when God comes to us on earth, he comes as a child.This image of God as child continues to shine on us through icons and through innumerable works of art, revealing that what is most essential and joyful in Christianity is found precisely here, in this eternal childhood of God.
Christ said “become like children” (Mt 18:3). What does this mean? What are adults missing, or better, what has been choked, drowned or deafened by a thick layer of adulthood? Above all, is it not that capacity, so characteristic of children, to wonder, to rejoice and, most importantly, to be whole both in joy and sorrow? Adulthood chokes as well the ability to trust, to let go and give one’s self completely to love and to believe with all one’s being. And finally, children take seriously what adults are no longer capable of accepting: dreams, that which breaks through our everyday experience and our cynical mistrust, that deep mystery of the world and everything within it revealed to saints, children, and poets.
Thus, only when we break through to the child living hidden within us, can we inherit as our own the joyful mystery of God coming to us as a child. The child has neither authority nor power, yet the very absence of authority reveals him to be a king; his defenselessness and vulnerability are precisely the source of his profound power. The child in that distant Bethlehem cave has no desire that we fear him; He enters our hearts not by frightening us, by proving his power and authority, but by love alone. He is given to us as a child, and only as children can we in turn love him and give ourselves to him. The world is ruled by authority and power, by fear and domination. The child God liberates us from that. All He desires from us is our love, freely given and joyful; all He desires is that we give him our heart. And we give it to a defenseless, endlessly trusting child.
Through the feast of Christmas, the Church reveals to us a joyful mystery: the mystery of freely given love imposing itself on no one. A love capable of seeing, recognizing and loving God in the Divine Child, and becoming the gift of a new life.
Excerpt from Celebration of Faith, Vol. 2: The Church Year by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994.
St. Luke of Simferopol on St. John the Forerunner in the Desert
According to tradition, King Herod, after the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem, wanted to kill John, but he couldn’t find him. This angered him greatly, and because of this he ordered his father Zacharias be killed. His mother, having learned that the soldiers were looking for the child, took him and went with him to a desolate mountain region. There having lived a short time, his mother died and the small John remained by himself in the desert.
We do not know how the Lord God fed him, how he protected him from the wild animals, neither do we know how the young Forerunner learned to eat akrides and wild honey. But we firmly believe, however, that for God all things are possible. See, therefore, that from the beginning, the life of him who would be called “[greatest] among those born of women” (Matthew 11:11) was an unprecedented and unheard of life. He remained in the desert totally by himself until thirty years of age.
Apolytikion of Holy Innocents
Be entreated, O Lord, by the sufferings endured for You by the Saints, and we pray You, heal all our pain.
Troparion of the innocents, in Tone I:
Through the pangs of Thy saints, wherewith they suffered for Thee, O Lord, be thou entreated; and heal all our pains, we pray Thee, O Thou Who lovest mankind.
Troparion — Tone 1
As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers, / as divine first-fruits and newborn lambs, / you were offered to Christ who was born as a child, holy innocents. / You mocked Herod’s wickedness; / now we beseech you: / “Unceasingly pray for our souls.”
Kontakion — Tone 6
When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi came from the east. / Having been guided by the star on high, they brought Him gifts. / But in his exceeding wrath, Herod mowed down the infants as wheat; / lamenting that the rule of his kingdom had come to an end.
(Vesper of the feast of the Holy Innocents.)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah,
The sceptre of the house of Judah passed away.
Infants who leaped in play were slaughtered for Christ.
A voice was heard in Ramah,
The lamentation of Judah’s daughters,
Rachel weeping for her sons, as it is written,
For the lawless Herod murdered the infants.
The land of Judah was soaked with innocent blood;
The earth was reddened by the blood of babies.
But the Church of the Gentiles is washed by this blood;
Clothed in radiant purity, she cries in joy:
The Truth has come!
God is made manifest!
He is born of the Virgin,
Enlightening those who sit in darkness,
For the salvation of the world!
Glory …, of the innocents, the composition of Andrew of Crete, in Tone VIII:
The all-iniquitous Herod, seeing the star which is the brightest of all creation, was troubled, and seized the suckling infants from their mothers’ arms; but Elizabeth, taking up John, entreated the stone, saying: “Receive thou a mother and her child!” O Lord, Thou treasure which the manger held, Whom the star announced and to Whom the magi paid homage, glory be to Thee!
Christ is born, give ye glory! Christ cometh from heaven, meet ye Him! Christ is on earth, be ye exalted! O all the earth, sing ye unto the Lord, and chant with gladness, ye people, for He hath been glorified!
First Canon, Ode Four, Nativity Matins
Rod of the root of Jesse, and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, Thou hast sprung from the Virgin. From the Mountain overshadowed by the forest Thou hast come, made flesh from her that knew not welock, O God who art not formed from matter. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
As dew upon the fleece hast Thou descended into the womb of the Virgin, O Christ, and as drops of rain that fall upon the earth. Ethiopia and Tarshish and the isles of Arabia, the kings of Saba, of the Medes and all the earth, fell down before Thee, O Saviour. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Holy Innocent Infants of Bethlehem & Judea, Pray unto God for us!