The Holy Innocents

28 Dec 2023 2019

The Holy Innocents are the boys of Bethlehem put to death by King Herod the Great after the Magi from the East visited the baby Jesus, then left for home without stopping in Jerusalem to give Herod news about “the newborn king of the Jews.”

This slaughter is related in the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, but is not mentioned by other sources, including the Jewish historian Josephus.

Estimates of the number killed range from 10 or 12, based on the likely population of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, to 64,000, a fantastic figure cited in the Syrian liturgy.

This feast has been celebrated in the West since the fifth century; the Holy Innocents are the patrons of foundlings.

Text: Catholic New Service
Image: The Virgin and Child Surrounded by the Holy Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1618/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain