Friday, 28 December 2012

With death comes absolution

Turning to my missal for today's Feast of The Holy Innocents I noticed, in the prologue, two things that had, either through ignorance or familiarity, passed me by in the past.

The first thing is that the "Innocents" are given the status of martyrs.

Why? They were not Christians in the sense that we speak of being Christian today.

But they died in the name of Christ; it may have been involuntary as far as they were concerned but the fact remains nonetheless.

The second thing to strike me was the fact that the Collect for the day makes note of the fact that "the Innocents, by dying confess".

In other words, the blood of their martyrdom washes away the stain of Original Sin.   

Is it then, just pushing the limits of what is meant by"martyrdom" too far to attribute the same absolution for those infants who, today, are murdered in their mothers' womb?

They, too are "innocent" and many of them die, if not on Christ's behalf, then certainly in involuntary support of Catholic doctrine, the teachings of Christ and the revelations of the Almighty.

Vox in Rama audita est, ploratus et ululatus:
Rachel plorans filios suos, et noluit consolari,
quia non sunt

A voice in Rama was heard,
lamentation and great mourning:
Rachel bewailing her children,
and would not be comforted, because they are not


  1. I think that "by dying they confess" refers to the fact that they were too young to confess with the tongue (which is mentioned earlier in that passage).

    And although I am horrified by abortion, I do not think that, in most cases, the aborted babies are martyrs. In my humble opinion, that makes abortion even more horrific, because without baptism the vast majority of these infants will not achieve the beatific vision, though they will enjoy perfect natural happiness and know that God loves them. I wrote about this on my blog...somewhere...I think it was a year or so ago, and it was about the whole concept of "limbo" and whether unbaptized babies can go to heaven. Fr. Erlenbush addressed this on his blog too (New Theological Movement).

  2. Not what "confess" means here, I'm afraid: cf. King Edward.


  3. Jay, I think that I would agree with your comment except that, presumably, the original sin carried by the Innocents was absolved by their martyrs' blood. If that is the case then, maybe, just maybe, it could be argued that the "innocents" of today are also martyrs....?
    Simon Platt, does the word "confess" in this context, have a dual meaning, both witness and confession by the act of their death?

  4. No dual meaning, I think. The collect says "Deus, cuius ... die praeconium Innocentes Martyres non loquendo, sed moriendo confessi sunt". What the Holy Innocents confess is God's proclamation - they bear witness to God, they don't confess a sin. I wonder whether there is a play on words here, a Latin oxymoron as (or so I understand) confiteri is cognate with fati - to speak.

    Here's what Fr Z had to say about this last year: