December 28: Day of the Massacre of the Innocents

Posted on December 14, 2021 By

Happy Holidays!

For the source on the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, see (see the Biblical book of Matthew, chapter 2; this echoes Exodus 1:16)

Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, pp. 80-81
(reading for) December 28

After Jesus was born, Matthew’s gospel records that King Herod was so disturbed by the news of a potential contender for the throne that he ordered a preemptive strike, executing all boys in Bethlehem under two years of age. Since its earliest centuries, the church has remembered these “holy innocents” who died because Jesus’ coming posed a threat to those in power. Today we remember all the little ones, born and unborn, who are sacrificed in a culture of death that has not yet welcomed the good news of Jesus. And we recall that Herod’s kingdom is now long gone, but the kingdom of God goes on.

Pope Francis

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to Bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents
December 28, 2016

Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive . . . For them, Christmas was not a flight to fantasy, a way of hiding from the challenges and injustices of their day. On the contrary they relate the birth of the Son of God as an event fraught with tragedy and grief . . .

We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time . . . who devour the innocence of our children. An innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labour, prostitution and exploitation. An innocence shattered by wars and forced immigration, with the great loss that this entails. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death, who only devour and exploit their neediness. . . .

Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call . . . to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow.

Massacre of the Innocents (1565)

 ArtistPieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-69)

Kathy Kelly

World Beyond War, January 22, 2021
About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen

Depicting multiple episodes of gruesome brutality, Bruegel conveys the terror and grief inflicted on trapped villagers who cannot protect their children. Uncomfortable with the images of child slaughter, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, after acquiring the painting, ordered another reworking. The slaughtered babies were painted over with images such as bundles of food or small animals, making the scene appear to be one of plunder rather than massacre.

Were Bruegel’s anti-war theme updated to convey images of child slaughter today, a remote Yemeni village could be the focus. Soldiers performing the slaughter wouldn’t arrive on horseback. Today, they often are Saudi pilots trained to fly U.S.-made warplanes over civilian locales and then launch laser-guided missiles (sold by Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin), to disembowel, decapitate, maim, or kill anyone in the path of the blast and exploding shards.

Note: Unfortunately, Kathy Kelly is not a consistent-lifer – but her comment on the famous painting is spot on.

The Christmas Visit. Postcard, c.1910

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This is a list of holiday editions of our weekly e-newsletter, Peace & Life Connections.

In 2010, we showed “It’s a Wonderful Movement” by using the theme of what would happen if the peace movement and the pro-life movement hadn’t arisen. We also had quotes from Scrooge (against respect for life) and a Martin Luther King Christmas sermon.

In 2011, we covered the materialism-reducing “Advent Conspiracy” and offered two pieces of children’s art: a 1938 anti-war cartoon called “Peace on Earth,” and the anti-war origins of “Horton Hears a Who,” whose tagline – “a person’s a person, no matter how small” – is irresistible to pro-lifers.

In 2012, we had a couple of quotes showing the pro-life aspects of two prominent Christmas tales: A Christmas Carol with Ebenezer Scrooge, and the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. We also quote from John Dear about Jesus as peacemaker and Rand Paul about the 1914 spontaneous Christmas Truce; he then related it to the culture of life.

In 2013, we shared several quotations reflecting on Christmas.

In 2014, we offered a quotation from a lesser-known Christmas novella of Charles Dickens and cited the treatment of abortion in the Zoroastrian scriptures.

In 2015, we had a list of good holiday movies with consistent-life themes – check it out for what you might want to see this season. We also had information on Muslim nonviolent perspectives.

In 2016, we discussed how “The Magi were Zoroastrians” and detailed how good the Zoroastrians were on consistent-life issues. The ancient roots of the consistent life ethic run deep!

In 2017, we covered Interfaith Peace in the Womb.

In 2018, we detailed Strong Women against Violence – Connected to the Holidays.

In 2019, we showed Christmas as a Nonviolent Alternative to Imperialism.

In 2020, given what was most on people’s minds at the time, we covered Pandemics Related to Christmas.

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Christmas literature


  1. Ms. Boomer-ang says:

    Did not a fairly recent Massacre of the Innocents occur in Romania right after Christmas 1989? Then, were not almost all pregnant women in Romania, at least those whose gestation was before a certain number of months and those who had born at least 2 children, pulled from their houses and forced to have abortions?

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