14,000 Holy Innocent Infants slain by Herod in Bethlehem
When the Most Holy Theotokos had given birth to Jesus Christ, the Magi beheld a new star in the heavens which foretold the Birth of a King of the Jews. They approached King Herod and asking where the new King had been born. Discovering through a prophecy that it was in Bethlehem, Herod asked them to visit this baby and to return to him and reveal His location so that he too may worship the Child. Having worshipped the new born King, the Magi did not return to Herod as he had commanded them for they were warned in a dream that Herod did not intend to worship the Child, but rather to execute Him as he saw Him as a rival to the throne. Each of the Magi went back to their own country by another way. Herod realised that he had been tricked by the Wise Men and decreed that every child under two years of age in Bethlehem be slaughtered, hoping that among these children was Christ Himself. Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, was warned also in a dream of the impending slaughter and sent his wife Elizabeth and his son John into the wilderness where John remained much time until his preaching ministry. Because of Zachariah’s refusal to tell Herod where his son was, the king slew the High Priest between the Temple and the altar. The God-receiving Simeon was too executed for confessing Christ as the Messiah. All infant boys under the age of two were slaughtered in Bethlehem, and thus they became the first martyrs for Christ, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15, “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.” The prophecy mentions Rachel as she is buried in Bethlehem, and thus she weeps over the loss of her town’s children.
Ἦχος α’. Τὸν τάφον σου Σωτὴρ.
Ως θύματα δεκτά, ως νεόδρεπτα ρόδα και θεία απαρχή, και νεόθυτοι άρνες, Χριστώ τω ώσπερ νήπιον, γεννηθέντι προσήχθητε, αγνά Νήπια, την του Ηρώδου κακίαν, στηλιτεύοντα και δυσωπούντα απαύστως, υπέρ των ψυχών ημών.
Ήχος δ’. Επεφάνης σήμερον.
Αστήρ Μάγους έπεμψε, προς τον τεχθέντα, και Ηρώδης άδικον, στρατόν απέστειλε κενώς, φονοκτονήσαι οιόμενος, τον εν τη φάτνη ως Νήπιον κείμενον.
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.