The Feast of the Holy Innocents, on just the fourth day after Christmas, commemorates the massacre of baby boys whose lives were taken by Herod who was frightened by the coming of the Christ.
St. Augustine of Hippo says about this event…“We celebrate the heavenly birthday of these children whom the world caused to be born unto an eternally blessed life…for they attained the grace of everlasting life before the enjoyment of the present. The death of these children is precious in the sight of God because of the beatitude they gained so quickly. These then, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.”
— St. Augustine
The text for the chant hymn for the Feast of the Holy Innocents is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on this tragic event. The author is Prudentius, a 4th century Roman Christian poet whose elegant texts were set to Gregorian chant melodies in medieval times, and can also be found in hymns and carols sung today.
Hail, flowers of the martyrs, whom, at the very threshold of the light of life, the pursuer of Christ destroyed, as a whirlwind would roses in bud.
You are the first victims of Christ, the tender flock of the sacrificers; pure ones before the altar itself, you play with palms and crosses.
Glory be to you, O Lord, who are born of a virgin, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for everlasting ages. Amen.
A Prayer to the Holy Innocents
Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.
Holy Innocents, you were killed because one many was filled with hatred, pray for those who hate that God may touch their hearts and fill them with love.
Holy Innocents, you experience a violent death, pray for all who are affected by violence that they may find peace and love.
Holy Innocents, your parents grieved for you with a deep and lasting sorrow, pray for all parents who have lost young children that God may wrap a warm blanket of comfort around them.
Holy Innocents, those around you certainly felt helpless to prevent your deaths, pray for all who feel helpless in their circumstances that they may cling to God for courage and hope.
Holy Innocents, you who are now in Heaven, pray for all of us that one day we may join you there to bask in God’s love forever.