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The Octave (Holy Innocents)

Martyrs. 

Dearly beloved, today we keep the birth of these children, who, as we are informed by the Gospel, were put to death by cruel King Herod. Therefore let earth rejoice with exceeding joy, for she is the fruitful mother of this great host of heavenly soldiers. The favour of vile Herod could never have done such service to these blessed ones as hath his hatred. For the Church testifieth by this holy solemnity, that whereas iniquity did specially abound against these little Saints, so much the more were heavenly blessings poured out upon them.

Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, which hath suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the slaughter of thy children. For thou wast found worthy to offer to God, and that all at one time, an entire white-robed army of guileless Martyrs. Surely we do well to keep this day whereon they were borne from earth into heaven, which is so much more blessed to them than the day that brought them out of their mother's womb. Scarcely had they entered on the life that now is, than they obtained that glorious life which is to come.

We esteem as precious the death of those Martyrs who have deserved praise for the confession which they made during their life-time; but these little Martyrs delight us by their death-time alone. Scarcely had life dawned upon them, when the very destruction which brought it to a close became for them the beginning of glory. They, whom the wickedness of Herod tore from their mother's breasts, are rightly called the Flowers of the Martyrs. Hardly had these early buds of the Church pushed above the ground in the winter of unbelief, than the frost of persecution destroyed them.

From a sermon by Saint Augustine the Bishop

Collect

O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest Infants to glorify thee by their deaths: mortify and kill all vices in us; and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Anglican Breviary, Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, Inc., New York, 1955, pages 298-299; 301

Additional Information:

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