In an article I recently wrote titled, “The Magi, the Massacre and Herod the Horrible", I explored the history of Herod the Great and his family, suggesting some reasons why Herod found the Christ-child to be such a threat after learning about His existence from the travelling Magi.
The topic is particularly relevant at the moment. After all, today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, when Christians have traditionally remembered the baby boys in Bethlehem that King Herod ordered to be massacred. A week from tomorrow will be the Feast of Epiphany, when Christians remember the journey the Magi took to Jerusalem to seek the Christ-child.
Important as these two events are within Western religious history, the historical details surrounding them are often overlooked. And that is a shame, since these events have relevance for the issues over the sanctity of life that we are facing today.
Does a baby have inherent value by being created in the image of God, or is his worth derivative from the ‘choice’ of someone else? Does the state have the authority to facilitate the slaughter of innocent children in order to meet needs within the adult community? Questions such as these are at the forefront of today’s abortion controversy and they very also the issues were raised when Herod massacred all the infant babies in Bethlehem in order to satisfy his own selfish needs.
Today has traditionally been set aside for remembering these Holy Innocents. The Feast was instituted between 400 and 500 AD by the Latin speaking church and intentionally placed within the octave of Christmas to emphasize that the Holy Innocents – considered by many to be the church’s first martyrs – gave their life for the newborn Savior.
The Feast is a time when the church annually reaffirms her commitment to the sanctity of life. As George Grant recently observed,
It has long been the focus of the Christian Church’s commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life–thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practicioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of Antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the Medieval epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these Modern times.