Mourning Innocent Souls
Double of the Second Class Feast of the Holy Innocents
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
Editor's Note: This special feature, provided by John Gregory with the Haydock Commentary found at the bottom of each page of the Douay-Rheims Bible, With the type so small in most bibles, we publish it here in larger type in conjunction with the Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday Mass provided by John Gregory with the cogent comprehensive Catholic Commentary penned by Father George Leo Haydock on the Douay-Rheims version of the New Testament. The commentary for the Double of the Second Class Feast of the Holy Innocents you can feel the great sorrow of Rachel in Rama, the weeping over the slain innocents, a parallel with those free of sin who have bee slain by the world for their faithfulness to Christ. Often the Holy Innocents are referred to as the "First Martyrs", for many believe they were among those "in the bosom of Abraham" who were taken up into Heave when Christ descended into hell before His Resurrection.
Epistle: Apocalypse 14: 1-5
And I beheld, and lo a lamb stood upon mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty-four thousand, having his name, and the name of his Father, written on their foreheads.
Commentary on Verse 1 Behold a Lamb, by which is divers times represented our Savior Christ. (Witham)
And I heard a voice from Heaven, as the noise of many waters, and as the voice of great thunder; and the voice which I heard, was as the voice of harpers, harping on their harps.
And they sung as it were a new canticle, before the throne, and before the four living creatures, and the ancients; and no man could say the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand, who were purchased from the earth.
Commentary on Verse 3 They sung as it were a new canticle. In these visions, after persecutions, are sometimes introduced rejoicings to encourage the servants of God in their sufferings from the wicked world. – No man could say (or sing) the canticle, but those hundred forty-four thousand: by which are signified the elect, who were not defiled with women. Some expound this literally of those who always lived as virgins; others understand all those who lived or died with a pure and clean heart, exempt from the corruption of vices, and of whom it is said, (ver. 5) that in their mouth was fund no lie, and that they were without spot for the throne of God. (Witham)
These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the firstfruits to God and to the Lamb:
Commentary on Verse 4 These are they, & c. In the style of the prophets, by fornication is meant idolatry, and virginity signifies cleanness from all sacrilegious worship. These, therefore, are virgins in this sense, who have not fallen into the impurities of creature worship. But others, as Saint Augustine, understand it of persons who have lived in continency. The first, however, is the more literal sense. (Calmet)
And in their mouth there was found no lie; for they are without spot before the throne of God.
Gospel: St. Matthew 2: 13-18
At that time, an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and His mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him.
Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod:
Commentary on Verse 14 It is very probable that Joseph, with Jesus and His Mother, remained in some part of Egypt, where the Jews were settled, as at Alexandria. That many Jews dwelt in Egypt, particularly from the time of the prophet Jeremias, is evident from Josephus, and also from the first chapter of the second book of Machabees. Mention is also made of them in Acts 2 and Acts 4 under the name of Alexandrines.
That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My son.
Commentary on Verse 15 Out of Egypt have I called My son. Saint Jerome understands these words to be taken out of the prophet Osee, (Chapter 11: 2) and granted they might be literally spoken of the people Israel: yet as their captivity in Egypt was a figure of the slavery of sin, under which all mankind groaned, and as their delivery by Moses was a figure of man’s redemption by our Savior Christ, so these words in a mystical and spiritual sense apply to our Savior, who in a more proper sense was the Son of God, than was the people of Israel. (Witham) – The application of this passage of the prophet to Christ, whereas in the simple letter it might appear otherwise, teaches us how to interpret the Old Testament; and that the principal sense is of Christ and His Church. (Bristow)
Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Commentary on Verse 16 By this example, we learn how great credit we owe to the Church in canonizing saints, and celebrating their holydays: by whose only warrant, without any word of Scripture, these holy Innocents have been honoured as martyrs, and their holyday kept ever since the apostles’ time, although they died not voluntarily, nor all, perhaps, circumcised, and some even children of pagans. (Saint Augustine, ep. 28. Origen, homily 3 in diversos.) (Bristow)
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying:
A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Commentary on Verse 18 A voice was heard in Rama. Saint Jerome takes Rama, not for the name of any city, but for a high place, as appears by his Latin translation. (Jeremias 31: 15) But in all Greek copies here in Saint Matthew, and in the Septuagint in Jeremias, we find the word itself Rama, so that it must signify a particular city. Rachel, who was buried at Bethlehem, is represented weeping (as it were in the person of those desolate mothers) the murder, and loss of so many children: and Rama being a city not far from Bethlehem, in the tribe of Benjamin, built on a high place, it is said that the cries and lamentations of these children, and their mothers, reached even to Rama. Cornelius a Lapide on Jeremias 31 thinks that these words were not only applied by the evangelist in a figurative sense, but that the prophet in the literal sense foretold these lamentations. (Witham)