“ Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the Wise Men, was exceedingly angry, and sending, killed all the men-children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the confines thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the Wise Men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the Prophet, saying: “A voice in Ramah was heard, lamentation and great mourning, Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” 
Matthew 2:16-18

1. One is appalled at the monstrosity of Herod, a man so steeped in blood that blood-shedding had become his one solution for every difficulty. And yet we know that this is no extraordinary thing. History and the best drama shows us that human nature, corrupted in any one direction, assumes that corruption as part of itself, so that the most unnatural vice becomes most natural. It is true with every vice, from calumny, and theft, and adultery, to murder, and insubordination, and contempt of God. This is the punishment of vice in this life; the fixing of this state for all eternity is hell. And let it be noticed that every vice, not only that of murder, isolates a man more and more from his fellow-men, makes him their permanent enemy and them his, destroys in him all those qualities which belong to manhood, and leaves him no more than a wild beast, with the added claws and teeth that human intelligence provides.

FraAngelicoMassacreOfTheInnocents0032. On the other side are Herod’s innocent victims. There is much to realize in the fact that they were not willing victims. They were too young to think or to choose; they were passive in their mother’s arms and beneath the swords of their executioners; yet the Church has put them in the vanguard of her martyrs. So has it been time and again in the history of the Church; in our own day, when Herod seems to have arisen in so many places, in Asia Minor, in Spain, in Portugal, in Mexico, in Belgium, it would seem to be reaching its climax. In all these places, where victims have been immolated out of hatred for the faith, without any power to say yes or no on their own part, there is for them and for us the joy of knowing that they are now “without spot before the throne of God,” witnesses to Him, not only here, but for all eternity. God “chooses whom He will”; and if those He chooses for death on the battle-field are by us put upon the “Roll of Honour,” no less should those be honoured whom He chooses for death in His own cause.

3. Thus is the malice of evil-doers everlastingly frustrated. They hack their way through to their own ends, while every victim that they slay not only cries to heaven for vengeance, but also adds to the glory and strength of that which they would fain destroy. Blood that is shed in whatever cause is usually a fruitful seed! and the more noble, the more pure the blood, the better in the distant future is likely to be the harvest. So the nations pride themselves in giving of their best; so God seems to choose the choicest of His children for this honor–witness Fisher, and More, and Campion, and Arundel in our own country [England]–that afterwards, in the fullness of time, “thoughts may be revealed.” Rachael may bewail her children, because they are not; but Rachel is the mother of children more numerous than the sands of the seashore.

Summary Meditation Points:

  1. Herod, the typical fruit of vice.
  2. The Innocents, the vanguard of the martyrs.
  3. The fruit of the martyrs is seen in this world and in the next.


Archbishop Alban Goodier SJ (Mirror View 1)Editor’s Note: This meditation is from Archbishop Alban Goodier’s “The Prince of Peace” (1913).

Art:  Bethlehemitischer Kindermord (Murder of the Bethlehem Children), Fra Angelico, circa 1450, PD-Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons. Mirror of Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.,, all rights reserved, used with permission.

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