In Bethlehem, December is one long month of festivities with several commemorations continuing even after Christmas. The Feast of Holy Innocents is one such annual celebration held on December 28 by Western Churches and on December 29 by Eastern Churches. It commemorates the loss of innocent lives, when King Herod attempted to kill infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16-18) 2,000 years ago.
The story on how Feast of Innocents came about
It is believed that when King Herod The Great had a revelation that Jesus Christ, the real King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem and unable to find the real child ordered all children below two years to be killed. This story is told thus in (Matt.2:16)
"…When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from Magi.."
Despite killing several little children, King Herod’s soldiers could not find Jesus and his family. It is believed that they remained elusive as they found shelter in grotto’s in Bethlehem. These are now famous as Milk Grotto Chapel and commemorate the event even to this day.
Some other historical places associated with Holy Innocents
In fact, there are several Chapels dedicated to Holy Innocents. One such famous Chapel, situated in the grottos are located under the Church of the St.Catherine of Alexandria as well as the Nativity Church located in Bethlehem itself. Tradition believes that this was the burial place for the children slain by King Herod’s soldiers.
Some also call another cave located below the Nativity Church, next to the Greek Orthodox belfry, which also contains the skulls and bones of small children as the Holy Innocents and is looked after by Greek Orthodox clergy.
In Padua, the St. Justina Church; Cathedrals in Lisbon, Milan are some of the other famous places where Christians believe several of the Holy Innocent bodies were shifted. In fact the St.Paul’s Outside the Walls also commemorates Feast of Holy Innocent, since it is believed the church holds some of slain Innocent bodies. It is also believed that some of the remains from here were later moved to Santa Maria Maggiore as well by Sixtus V as well.
Actual dates of Commemoration
It is unsure when it was designated as a Saint’s Day but it remains in practice since 6 th Century. There are several believes on the manner in which the whole process came into effect but there is concurrence that the early church regarded the slain children as the first martyrs and therefore, they could have celebrated it with Epiphany, which eventually became a separate festival by 5 th century.
The tragic episode of Holy Innocents is an important source of Christian music, art, poetry that continues to evoke tenderness and soulfulness. Each year musical celebrations are held across Bethlehem to commemorate the Feast of Innocents.
As with each year, 2011 also saw the commemorations on the 27th at the Convention Palace, Salomon Pools in Bethlehem. Christians from Nazareth, Galilee and other nations participate in the Symphonic-catechetical festivities. The ‘Suffering of the Innocents,’ symphony, composed by Kiko Arguello of Spain was dedicated to people suffering from mental and physical persecutions.
Pau Joroquera directed the Orchestra with 180 musicians and choir which was transcendental music reliving the slaying of innocent lives and the suffering and heartburn of their mothers.
A third event honored the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, who led the mass and the prayers. In his homily, presented in three languages - Arabic, Italian, and Spanish - highlighted that the sins of man, made Jesus Christ suffer on the cross and after resurrection found heavenly peace. The ‘Ressurecti’ orchestra followed this.
The entire Feast of Innocents concluded with a prayer, ‘Our Father’ by the Patriarch.
The Feast of Innocents 2012
This year too several events are under preparation to celebrate the Feast of Innocents in 2012 at Bethlehem.
By TravelMole Staff Writer
Thursday, January 12, 2012