January 9 - Matthew 2:13-23 - the holy innocents - the little soldiers of Christ
AFTER THE WISE MEN HAD DEPARTED, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt. And remain there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him.” Then Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Numbers 24:8, Hosea 11:1). When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children. She refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15). When Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the Child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There Joseph made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Saint Peter Chrysologus talks about whether Christ abandoned the little soldiers:
Why did Christ do this? Christ is the Judge of thoughts and the Examiner of minds. Why did He desert those whom He knew were being sought because of himself and whom He knew would be killed for His sake? He was born a King, the King of heaven - why did He neglect the standard-bearers of His own innocence? Why did He disdain an army of the same age as Himself? Why did He thus abandon those who were cut down as plunder from the same cradle as Himself? Was it so that He, Who would come the one King, might proceed against the forces of all His enemies? Brothers and sisters, Christ did not despise His own soldiers but promoted them and granted that they might walk in victory before they lived. He enabled them to participate in a victory without struggle. He gave to them the gift of the crown even before their bodies had grown. It was Christ's will that they pass over vice for virtue, attain heaven before earth and share in the divine life immediately. Thus it was that Christ sent His soldiers ahead. He did not abandon them. He gathered up His ranks. He did not leave them behind.
And Saint Chromatius says that these innocent boys murdered by Herod became the first martyrs for Christ:
In Bethlehem, therefore, all the babies were slain. These innocents who died then on Christ's behalf became the first martyrs of Christ. David refers to them when he says, "From the mouths of nursing babies You have perfected praise because of Your enemies, that You might bring ruin to the enemy" (Psalm 8:2). For in this persecution even tiny infants and nursing babies were killed on Christ's behalf and attained to the consummate praise of martyrs. Meanwhile, the wicked king Herod was destroyed, he who had usurped the realm to defend himself against the King of heavens. Thus it is that those blessed infants have deservedly lasted beyond others. They were the first who were worthy to die on Christ's behalf.
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