Today the Church remembers the Holy Innocents, the male children executed because of Herod’s fury to find the Christ child. Herod, fearing for his throne after the Magi told him of the birth of Jesus, ordered the massacre of all Bethlehem boys age two and under hoping that Jesus would be among those killed (Matthew 2:1-18). According to Matthew, this fulfilled a prophecy of JeremiahÂ 31:15:Â “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”
As stated in commentary, â€œThe peace of Bethlehem was shattered by the cries of the slaughtered children and the weeping of their mothers. The peace of the word was shattered by the single cry from the cross. Yet through that death and mourning, peace was reborn now, indestructible now, in the resurrection of the slain crossâ€ (Magnificat, 417).
By setting the Holy Innocentsâ€™ day of remembrance just three days after celebrating the Nativity, the Church is balancing the manger with the cross . . . the tomb. When we face sorrows, suffering, and death around us, we embrace the incarnation, the Word made flesh. “Bethlehem is the prelude to Calvary. We may not merely stand adoring at the crib; we must also follow to the cross” (Magnificat, 390).
So during the twelve days of Christmas as the celebrations of Christ’s birth continue, we remember all those for whom Christ was born, for all those killed for the faith, and for all the innocent who suffer violence. OnÂ December 26 the first martyr of the Church, Saint Stephen, is remembered; on December 27 the man who stood at the foot of the cross during the hour of Jesus’ Passion,Â Saint John the Apostle, is honored; and on December 28, the slaughter of the holy innocents is commemorated. AllÂ collectively remind us of the necessity of the incarnation — which is all of Jesus: his birth, his life, his teaching, and his death. Holy Mother Church in her infinite wisdom provides us an opportunity to reflect on the whole of the incarnation — not just on the crib, but on the cross as well.
Project Rachelâ€œThe Holy Innocents are few, in comparison to the genocide and abortion of our day. But even if there had been only one, we recognize the greatest treasure God put on the earth â€” a human person, destined for eternity and graced by Jesusâ€™ death and resurrectionâ€ (Saint of the Day).
Reading about Herodâ€™s slaughter of the male children should remind us of the millions of aborted babies in our contemporary time whose lives, like those of the Holy Innocents, are cut short by someone else’s choice. Seems an appropriate time to once again highlight the good work of Project Rachel, a program that reaches out to those experiencing grief from the loss of a child by abortion. Project Rachel is in more than 110 dioceses in the United States with more ministries forming. This diocesan-based ministry is composed of a network of specially trained clergy, spiritual directors, and therapists who provide compassionate one-on-one care to those who are struggling with the aftermath of abortion.
While an outreach of the Catholic Church, Project Rachel is open to anyone who is struggling after an abortion loss. It helps women and men, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and others whose lives have been impacted.Â For more information and to locate the Project Rachel nearest to you, visit Project Rachelâ€™s website: Hope After Abortion or call the nationwide toll-free numberÂ 888-456-HOPE (4673).