Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Childermass. The Holy Innocents. Feast Day, Today, 28 December.

"The Massacre of the Innocents".
Artist: Tintoretto (1518–1594).
Date: 1582-1587.
Current location: Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice, Italy.
Source/Photographer: Web Gallery of Art:
(Wikimedia Commons)

"The Coventry Carol".
The Carol refers to
The Massacre of The Innocents.
Sung by Charlotte Church.
Available on YouTube at

The Coventry Carol.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child, 
By, by, lully, lullay. 
Lullay, thou little tiny Child, 
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do, 
For to preserve this day 
This poor youngling for whom we do sing 
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging, 
Charged he hath this day 
His men of might, in his own sight, 
All children young to slay.

Then, woe is me, poor Child for Thee ! 
And ever mourn and sigh 
For thy parting neither say nor sing, 
By, by, lully, lullay.

The Holy Innocents.
Feast Day 28 December.

Station at Saint Paul-without-the Walls.

Indulgence of 30 years and 30 Quarantines.

Double of The Second-Class
   with Simple Octave.

Violet Vestments.
   (If Sunday; Red).

"Massacre of The Innocents".
Artist: Matteo di Giovanni (1435–1495).
Date: 1488.
Current location: National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.
Source/Photographer: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei.
DVD-ROM, 2002. 
ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Permission: [1].
(Wikimedia Commons)

"The Massacre of The Innocents".
Artist: Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640).
English: Photographed during the exhibition "L'Europe de Rubens"
(The Europe of Rubens) in The Louvre-Lens.

photographiée lors de l’exposition temporaire
« L'Europe de Rubens » au musée du Louvre-Lens.
Deutsch: während der Ausstellung "L'Europe de Rubens"
(Das Europa Rubens) im Louvre-Lens fotografiert.
Nederlands: gefotografeerd tijdens de tentoonstelling "
"L'Europe de Rubens" (Rubens en zijn Tijd) in de Louvre-Lens.
Source/Photographer: User:Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (2013).
(Wikimedia Commons)

Text from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

The Massacre of The Innocents is the Biblical narrative of Infanticide, by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the "Vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a new-born King of the Jews, whose birth had been announced to him by The Magi.

In typical Matthean style, it is understood as the fulfillment of an Old Testament Prophecy: "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah, the Prophet, saying: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more."

The number of infants killed is not stated, however, The Holy Innocents, although not Christians, have been claimed as Martyrs for Christianity.

In Saint Matthew's account, Magi from The East go to Judea in search of the new-born King of the Jews, having "seen His Star in The East". The King, Herod the Great, directs them to Bethlehem, and asks them to let him know who this King is when they find Him. They find Jesus and honour Him, but an Angel tells them not to alert Herod, and they return home by another way. The Massacre of The Innocents is at Matthew 2:1618, although the preceding Verses form the context:

When [The Magi] had gone, an Angel of The Lord appeared to Joseph, in a dream. "Get up", he said, "take The Child and His Mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for The Child to kill Him". So, he got up, took The Child and His Mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.

And so was fulfilled what The Lord had said through the Prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son." When Herod realised 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 The Magi.

Then, what was said through the Prophet Jeremiah, was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."

The story's first appearance in any source other than Matthew is in the apocryphal Proto-Evangelium of James of circa 150 A.D., which excludes The Flight into Egypt and switches the attention of the story to the infant John the Baptist:

"And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by The Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took The Infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an Angel of The Lord was with them, watching over them."

The first non-Christian reference to The Massacre is recorded four Centuries later, by Macrobius (lived 395 A.D. - 423 A.D.), who writes in his Saturnalia:

"When he [Emperor Augustus] heard that, among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: 'It is better to be Herod's pig, than his son'."

The "Coventry Carol" is a Christmas Carol dating from the 16th-Century. The Carol was performed in Coventry, England, as part of a Mystery Play called The Pageant of The Shearmen and Tailors. The Play depicts The Christmas Story from Chapter Two in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Carol refers to The Massacre of The Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two, in Bethlehem, to be killed. The lyrics of this haunting Carol represent a mother's lament for her doomed child. It is the only Carol that has survived from this Play. The author is unknown. The oldest known Text was written down by Robert Croo, in 1534, and the oldest known printing of the melody dates from 1591. The Carol is Traditionally sung a cappella.

Mediaeval Liturgical Drama recounted Biblical events, including Herod's Slaughter of The Innocents. The Pageant of The Shearmen and Tailors, performed in Coventry, England, included a haunting song about the episode, now known as The Coventry Carol.

The Ordo Rachelis Tradition of four Plays includes The Flight into Egypt, Herod's succession by Archelaus, The Return from Egypt, as well as The Massacre, all centred on Rachel weeping, in fulfillment of Jeremiah's Prophecy. These events were, likewise, in one of the Mediaeval N-Town Plays.

The theme of "The Massacre of The Innocents" has provided artists of many nationalities with opportunities to compose complicated depictions of massed bodies in violent action. It was an alternative to The Flight into Egypt in Cycles of The Life of The Virgin. It decreased in popularity in Gothic Art, but revived in the larger works of The Renaissance, when artists took inspiration for their "Massacres" from Roman reliefs of The Battle of The Lapiths and Centaurs, to the extent that they showed the figures heroically nude.

The horrific subject matter, of The Massacre of The Innocents, also provided a comparison of ancient brutalities with early modern ones during the period of Religious Wars that followed The Reformation - Bruegel's versions show the soldiers carrying banners with The Habsburg Double-Headed Eagle (often used at the time for Ancient Roman soldiers).

The 1590 version, by Cornelis van Haarlem, also seems to reflect the violence of the Dutch Revolt. Guido Reni's early (1611) Massacre of The Innocents, in an unusual vertical format, is at Bologna. The Flemish painter, Peter Paul Rubens, painted the theme more than once. One version, now in Munich, was engraved and reproduced as a painting as far away as colonial Peru. Another, his grand Massacre of The Innocents, is now at the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. The French painter, Nicolas Poussin, painted The Massacre of The Innocents (1634) at the height of The Thirty Years' War. The Massacre is the opening Plot used in the 2006 movie, The Nativity Story.

The Commemoration of The Massacre of these "Holy Innocents" — considered by some Christians as the first Martyrs for Christ — first appears as a Feast of The Western Church in The Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485 A.D. The earliest Commemorations were connected with The Feast of The Epiphany, 6 January: Prudentius mentions The Innocents in his Hymn on The Epiphany; Pope Leo I, in his Homilies on The Epiphany, speaks of The Innocents; Fulgentius of Ruspe (6th-Century A.D.) gives a Homily "De Epiphania, deque Innocentum nece et muneribus magorum" ("On Epiphany, and on The Murder of The Innocents and The Gifts of The Magi").

Today, the date of Holy Innocents' Day, also called The Innocents' Day, or Childermass, or Children's Mass, varies. 27 December is the date for West Syrians (Syriac Orthodox Church, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Maronite Church) and East Syrians (Chaldeans and Syro-Malabar Catholic Church). 28 December is the date in The Church of England, The Lutheran Church and The Roman Catholic Church (in which, except on Sunday, Violet Vestments were worn before 1961, instead of Red Vestments, the normal Liturgical Colour for Martyrs). The Eastern Orthodox Church Celebrates The Feast Day on 29 December.

In The 1962 Roman Catholic Calendar, the Violet Vestments for Holy Innocents were eliminated (Red Vestments used, instead), and, if 28 December fell on a Sunday, this Feast was Commemorated on The Sunday within The Octave of Christmas. This was changed in a later revision of The Church Calendar.

In Spain, Hispanic America and the Philippines, 28 December is a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool's Day in many Countries. One of the more famous of these Traditions is the annual "Els Enfarinats" Festival of Ibi, in Alicante, Spain, where the inocentadas dress up in full military dress and incite a flour fight. Various Catholic Countries had a Tradition (no longer widely observed) of role reversal between children and their adult educators, including Boy Bishops, perhaps a Christianised version of the Roman annual feast of the Saturnalia (when even slaves played "masters" for a day). In some cultures, such as Mediaeval England and France, it was said to be an unlucky day, when no new project should be started.

In addition, there was a Mediaeval custom of refraining, where possible, from work on the day of the week on which The Feast of "Innocents Day" had fallen, for the whole of the following year until the next Innocents Day. This was presumably mainly observed by the better-off. Philippe de Commynes, the Minister of King Louis XI of France, tells in his memoirs how the King observed this custom, and describes the trepidation he felt when he had to inform the King of an emergency on the day.

The following Text is from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

The Feast of The Holy Innocents dates back to about the 5th-Century A.D. The Massacre of these Infants manifests The Royal Character of Jesus. It is because Herod believed the words of The Magi, and those of the High Priests, whom he consulted, that he sees a rival in The Infant of Bethlehem and jealously pursues Him "that is born King of the Jews" [Gospel of The Epiphany].

But, as The Church sings, "O cruel Herod, why thus fear, Thy King and God Who comes below ? No Earthly Crown comes He to take, Who Heavenly Kingdoms doth bestow" [Hymn for Vespers of The Epiphany].

It is this God-King that "The Innocents, by dying, confess" (Collect). "Their passion is The Exaltation of Christ" [Third Nocturn of Matins]. And the praise that they render to God is a subject of confusion in the enemies of Jesus (Introit), for, far from attaining their object, they only served to fulfil the saying of the Prophet "out of Egypt have I called My Son" (Gospel), and that at Bethlehem would be heard the lamentations of the mothers mourning for their children.

To picture their desolation in more vivid colours, Jeremias recalls Rachel, whose lamentations are heard in Rama [a Town situated two hours to the North of Jerusalem, in the old territory of Benjamin, son of Rachel], bewailing her children because they are not.

Like a compassionate mother, The Church robes her Priests, today, in Vestments of mourning, and suppresses the Gloria and Alleluia.

This Feast is celebrated at Saint Paul's-without-the-Walls, because the bodies of several of those Holy Martyrs are Venerated there.

Let us show forth in Holiness of Life, The Divinity of Christ, that was confessed by the death of these innocent Souls children.

Every Parish Priest celebrates Mass for the people of his Parish.

Mass: Ex ore infántium.
The Gloria in excelsis, the Alleluia, and the Ita Missa est are said only if The Feast falls on a Sunday, and on The Octave Day of The Feast Day (4 January).
Second Collect: Of The Octave of The Nativity of Our Lord.
Preface: For Christmas.
Communicantes: For Christmas.

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