The Holy Innocents
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We read in Matthew 2 that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, King Herod, fearing for his throne, ordered that all the male infants of Bethlehem be killed. These children are regarded as martyrs for the Gospel -- "martyrs in fact though not in will." Augustine called them "buds, killed by the frost of persecution the moment they showed themselves." *
* The Lectionary, James Kiefer, http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/Innocents.htm
Note: Our remembrances of St. Stephen, St. John, and now The Holy Innocents were all transferred on day (later) because The First Sunday after Christmas Day was on December 26, this year.