Παρασκευή, 30 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

Remembering the 14,000 Holy Infants (Holy Innocents) slain by Herod in Bethlehem and… the many innocents killed by the herods of our days

The Holy Innocents who slain by Herod at Bethlehem, the first martyrs for Christ!...

Orthodox Church in America
Icons from here (there you can see the original sources of the images.)


14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.
The Church remembers this on December 29.

The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver (February 3), who declared before everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy Elder died, Herod would not give permission for him to be properly buried. On the orders of King Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah was also killed. He was murdered in Jerusalem between the Temple and the altar (Mt. 23:35) because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God soon fell upon Herod himself: a horrid condition struck him down and he died, eaten by worms while still alive. Before his death, the impious king murdered the chief priests and scribes of the Jews, and also his brother, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam, and three of his sons, and seventy men of wisdom who were members of the Sanhedrin. He initiated this bloodbath so that the day of his death would not be one of rejoicing, but one of mourning.

Troparion — Tone 1

As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers, / as divine first-fruits and newborn lambs, / you were offered to Christ who was born as a child, holy innocents. / You mocked Herod’s wickedness; / now we beseech you: / “Unceasingly pray for our souls.” 

Kontakion — Tone 6

When the King was born in Bethlehem, the Magi came from the east. / Having been guided by the star on high, they brought Him gifts. / But in his exceeding wrath, Herod mowed down the infants as wheat; / lamenting that the rule of his kingdom had come to an end.

The Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod and the Symbolism of the 14,000 Infants

By George P. Patronos


The feast in honor of the "14,000 slaughtered children" is for many non-believers a scandal, as the number of infants killed by Herod in his hunt for Jesus was much smaller. But these people not only ignore the deeper significance of Herod's massacre, but also the symbolic dimension of the number.

What does history tell us?

Under the strict conditions of scientific historical accuracy, the number of 14,000 slaughtered infants, according to tradition, creates, even for the atrocities committed by Herod, insurmountable problems. According to the information provided by our sources, especially the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a contemporary of the Evangelists Luke and John, who is a very knowledgeable source of the era of the events described in the Gospels, the ancient town of Bethlehem and its surroundings should then have had a population of perhaps little more than a thousand inhabitants. The slaughter of male infants "from two years and under" would not, therefore, in fact be for more than 30 or 40 maximum, based on statistical data obtained from the population distribution in this region.

Such a figure would be much more likely according to historians, for Herod to venture in an albeit still tragic attempt to ensure his authority from an inside and local threat of a pretender to the throne. The slaughtering of some dozens of infants from rural families in a remote and neglected region, would be but "only a small and insignificant episode" in his life and works, as a modern researcher aptly observes; a fault in comparison with his other crimes which does not substantially burden the already long list of victims he is suspected of, and is not particularly differentiated from the otherwise degraded local situation that would cause the intervention of Rome in this specific issue.

With this being the case, it is a fact that nowhere in the sacred texts of the Gospels does it record a specific number of "slaughtered infants". The reference to the slaughter of "fourteen thousand" male children instead comes from the sacred tradition of the Church in the Synaxarion for the feast, and the note that these infants are among the Martyrs of the Church and are considered the first anonymous and "countless" martyrs of the Christian faith. It is this factor that gives the whole issue a parallel to history, and a particular "symbolic" parameter which requires a theological hermeneutic approach. 


The theological significance of the number of the "slaughtered infants"

As already pointed out, the Gospels do not take a stance on "chronology" or the simple "journalistic reporting" of historical events. Their aim is not simply to inform some readers, but they spiritually guide and theologically educate the faithful under the catechetical and pastoral role of the Church. In this light, the Massacre of the Innocents is of particular theological meaning for the sacred texts, and of particular interest to the interpretive approach and understanding of the semantics of the events in the Gospel narrative.

In the tradition of the Jewish people and the theology of the Old Testament there was a "historical" past persecution and even a "massacre". Specifically, the narrative in the Book of Exodus speaks of the foreign Pharaoh who belonged to another religion who had ordered the killing of male Israelites by drowning them in the Nile River, a real genocide which aimed to reduce the number of Jewish slaves who were increasing at an alarming rate in the country.

This factor was considered by the sacred writers of the New Testament as a theological precedent, or in the language of hermeneutics a "foreshadowing", for a parallel theological approach and interpretation of the corresponding event of the massacre of infants from a "new pharaoh", the hated Herod of another religion who was king of Judea. Just as the old Pharaoh expressed the opposing forces of darkness and oppression in reaction to the signs implemented for the planned and God-ordained salvation and historical recognition of Israel, and just as he killed the children so that Moses the first prophet of Exodus would not be born, so also did Herod as the "new Pharaoh" embody the actions of the same demonic powers. He attempts to impede the coming of the Savior of the world and the historical recognition of the new Israel, the Church.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is revealed from infancy already as Christ the Lord, who was sent by God for the salvation of the world. And Herod, who in a manic and insane way "seeks the soul of the child", manifested through his actions to be a representative of the evil one and is presented in the form of the Antichrist (see Rev. 12:l). The powerful present ruler, however, is essentially weak and vulnerable to the Infant who will become the final victor. The event of the massacre of the infants thus acquires a soteriological and eschatological perspective, where parallel it forms part of the "signs of the end" that predispose and prepare for the final defeat of evil and the victory of good.

In this line of theological semantics, the Massacre of the Innocents also conjures the prophecy of Jeremiah, who seven centuries prior announced prophetically and poetically described the following apocalyptic scene: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more" (Jer. 31:15). The historical evangelist Matthew makes use of the prophetic saying and theologically interprets it according to the contemporary event of the "lamentation of the weeping and wailing" of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:18). 

"Rachel weeping for her children"
The ancient prophecy referred to the sacrifices during the exodus of the old Israel from Egypt. And just as Moses at that time together with Joshua the son of Nun led the people of God from Egypt and "Egyptian bondage", from Pharaoh and pharaonic slavery, to the promised land and freedom, so now a "new Moses" and "new Joshua" will lead His people to a new exodus, to a new promised land, towards the eschatological country of freedom and dignity. Therefore the evangelist Matthew, being inspired, underlines in this theological symbolism and "foreshadowing" events, that "out of Egypt" again God called a leader for His people and for the great "exodus" of modern times (Matt. 2:15).

The apostle Paul and many interpreting Fathers of the Church make extensive use of the theological terms "Egypt" and "Pharaoh" in a typological interpretation of a purely theological character. The flight of the Infant Jesus to Egypt in the wake of the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem acquires, beyond its historical importance, also eschatological implications as if it is another "descent of the Son of God in Hades." There, in the "Hades of Egypt", Jesus Christ as the "new Moses" will meet His people and will invite them to a new eschatological "exodus" towards the new promised land, the Kingdom of God. (See Deut. 18:15, where Moses says: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.")

The number 14,000

As regards, finally, the number 14,000 that sacred tradition has preserved for the slaughtered infants, this is not due to an accounting error, but comes from the influence of Jewish apocalyptic numerology. It is in fact a multiple of the sacred number of seven to the Jews, that symbolizes totality and universality. Similarly in the Apocalypse of John is found semantic reference to the other sacred number of twelve in multiples, with the observation that in the end times Jesus Christ comes again with the martyrs, who in their wholeness and perfection symbolically amount to 144,000 (Rev. 14:1 and 7:4). And certainly in this case it is not a real number, but for theological symbolism it expresses the universality of the Church, which is constituted and represented in the history of the Martyrs. The sacrificed and martyred saints over the centuries express the historical and eschatological unity of the Church. Those who are associated with power and strength, align with the respective "Pharaohs" and "Herods" of history. 

Holy Relics of the Saints Infant
The reporting of the evangelist of the event of the slaughter and sacrifice expresses in the most vivid way that Jesus and his followers do not realize their historical course in a romantic and idyllic world, but they are dominated by the realism of violence, bondage, oppressions and persecutions. The strong "Pharaohs" and "Herods" who usually dominate the destinies of peoples, representing opposite and demonic forces, perpetuate and augment the evils and injustices against the weak. The Holy Child, who from His first moments tasted of threats and violence, questionings and rejections, set the standard of the life of martyrdom of those who faithfully follow in His footsteps, to the end of historical time.

The history of the Church with its numerous martyrs continuously verifies the tragic reality that there can be no change in the world without the confessors of truth and the martyrs of freedom. Through the narration of the incident of the massacre of the infants it is stressed once again the permanent historical question: with what side will you finally align, with the powerful "Herods" or the innocent and weak who are as children of the "slain Lamb" and innocent infants, becoming martyrs of the truth "from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8)? This is one of the key questions that Christianity attempts to answer through the sacred text.

Almost all of the above is taken from the article by Professor Emeritus of Theology of the University of Athens, George P. Patronos, titled "The Massacre of the Innocents in the New Testament" ("Η σφαγή τών νηπίων κατά την Καινή Διαθήκη"), published in the magazine Ιστορικά (No. 216), in Eleftherotypia December 18, 2003 pp. 34-41.

Note: For a more detailed historical and theological hermeneutic approach to the event of the massacre of the infants, see George P. Patronos' The History of Jesus: From the Manger to the Empty Tomb (Η ιστορική πορεία τού Ιησού: από τη φάτνη ως τον κενό τάφο) published by Domos, Athens 1991, p. 580.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

Christ is Born, Glorify Him!

  In the festive atmosphere that embraced heaven and earth, just few days from the Nativity feast of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Church coats herself in much sorrow for the innocent babies slain by king Herod’s cruelty. Back than Jesus was saved from the wrath of Herod. Still today, He suffers the torment of death with each of the babies slain by modern tools of medicine, by the will of a society that had lost its balance and sense of life and raised to the rank of the law, the grivial sin of murdering babies.
  Truly the commandment of the Gospel “Thy shall not kill!” no longer holds true in a world that calls the good evil and the evil good.  

Life starts at conception

Most people do not know what happens during an abortion. Perhaps many women who committed abortion did not know that actually they killed a child. Why? Because they  are told that by the third month in the womb they bear only “a ball of cells” and not a true man.
  British Professor Stuart Campbell, a researcher at “Create Health Clinic” in London, managed to obtain, through a new type of ultrasound scan, three-dimensional images that allow viewing of fetal movements in real time. The study demonstrates for the first time that life begins with fertilization and not at birth. At the moment of conception, 46 chromosomes with 30,000 genes combine and determine all our physical characteristics: gender, facial and bodily features, eye color, hair and skin. Then, in just a few weeks, from one cell a tiny man is formed, having all the organs already present and able to work.
  What happens following the 3 months – in which some argue that the fetus is merely “a ball of cells”? 
The heart starts beating 18 days post conception, fetal blood passes through the umbilical cord, the placenta where the metabolic exchanges take place between the mother and the child: the child passes to the mother the remnants of carbon dioxide and the mother provides oxygen and nutrients. In about 3 weeks the hands start to  form and at 8 weeks, the fingers. The fetus can move the fingers and open his/her mouth.
At 40 days, the brain function is measured by EEG waves. This wonderful control center – the brain – sends messages to both mother and child.
At 2 months, the baby fingerprints are already imprinted in the skin.
At about 7 weeks, the first spontaneous movements are noticed, although the mother usually doesn’t feel the baby moving until about 16 weeks.
At 18 weeks, the fetus is active and energetic and makes numerous muscle flexes and can give sufficiently strong punches and kicks :)
At 26 weeks, the fetus can do a wide range of child specific gestures – to scratch, to smile, to hiccup and suck his/her fingers …

Hristos binecuvantand copiii 2 
“Let children come to me …”
(the choice is made by God not by the pregnant women)
by Fr. Alexander Stanciu

Before enjoying the light of this life, God had ordained that the child will dwell and develop for 9 months in the safest shelter of the world: his mother’s womb. Today, however, man has transformed this possible safest shelter in the most dangerous place for that, although the child can do nothing to defend himself, his life can be taken even by the dearest person, his MOTHER .
 The conceived fetus becomes a human being at the time of fecundation, when God created immortal soul of man. The sin of abortion is a form of murdering baby Christ, Who in a certain way, is born with every baby. From the moment of conception, the child bears the image of God, and through Baptism will carry the image of Christ within. If this image is destroyed, in the women womb Christ is been crucified once more. Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain goes so far as saying that a mother who commits abortion, does not kill one human being, but in  so much she is killing as many survivors as would have resulted if  her child had lived.

Can abortion ever be recommended?

Lets follow these three examples:

1. The father is an alcoholic, the mother has tuberculosis. They have four children. The first one is blind. The second one died. The third child is deaf, and the fourth has tuberculosis. She becomes pregnant again. Given this extreme situation, would you take into account the recommendation of abortion?

2. A little black girl, aged 13, was raped by a white man, the little girl became pregnant. If you were her parents, would you recommend abortion?

3. A teenager girl is pregnant. She is not married. Her fiancé is not the father of the child. He is very upset and plans to leave her. In this case, would you consider abortion appropriate?

If you said “yes” to the 1st question: You have killed Beethoven.
If you said “yes” to the 2nd question: You have killed a great black singer of religious music, Ethel Wathers.
If you said “yes” to the 3rd question: You just decided to kill Jesus Christ.

“The Gestating Virgin Mother” - an icon by hagiographer Sophia Papazoglou, in the church of Saint Eleftherios on Acharnon Street in Athens, Greece  (from here)

See also

When the Orthodox Church celebrates pregnancy...
What does an abortion cost? A human life!  
The horror of abortion

A Romanian mom's miracle pregnancy
Shooting pregnant women as targets

Pan-Hellenic Society of Friends of Large Families (from here the icon - here)

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ για το θέμα:
Τα άγια Νήπια και οι σύγχρονοι Ηρώδες  
Παρακλητικός Κανόνας στα Άγια Νήπια της Βηθλεέμ (29 Δεκεμβρίου)
Έκτρωση (ενότητα)

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