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V. KL. JAN.

DECEMBER XXVIII.

NATALE INNOCENTIUM INFANTUM.

THE NATIVITY OF THE INNOCENTS.

Nu to-dæg Godes gelaðung geond ealne ymbhwyrft mærsað þæra eadigra cildra freols-tide, þe se wælhreowa Herodes for Cristes acennednysse mid arleasre ehtnysse acwealde, swa swa us seo godspellice racu swutellice cyð. Now to-day God's church throughout all the globe celebrates the festival of the blessed children whom the cruel Herod, on account of the birth of Christ, slew in impious persecution, as the evangelical narrative manifestly makes known to us.
Matheus awrat, on þære forman Cristes bec, ðysum wordum be ðæs Hælendes gebyrd-tide, and cwæð, "Þaða se Hælend acenned wæs on þære Iudeiscan Bethleem, on Herodes dagum cyninges, efne ða comon fram east-dæle middangeardes þry tungel-witegan to ðære byrig Hierusalem, þus befrinende, Hwær is Iudeiscra leoda Cyning, seðe acenned is? We gesawon soðlice his steorran on east-dǽle, and we comon to ði þæt we ús to him gebiddon. Hwæt ða Herodes cyning þis gehyrende wearð micclum astyred, and eal seo burhwaru samod mid him. He ða gesamnode ealle þa ealdor-biscopas, and ðæs folces boceras, and befran hwær Cristes cenningstów wære. Hí sædon, on ðære Iudeiscan Bethleem. Þus soðlice is awriten þurh ðone witegan Micheam, Eala þu Bethleem, Iudeisc land, ne eart ðu nateshwón wacost burga on Iudeiscum ealdrum: of ðe cymð se Heretoga seðe gewylt and gewissað Israhela folc. Ða clypode Herodes þa ðry tungel-witegan on sunder-spræce, and geornlice hí befrán to hwilces timan se steorra him ærst æteowode, and asende hí to Bethleem, ðus cweðende, Farað ardlice, and befrínað be ðam cilde, and þonne ge hit gemetað, cyðað me, þæt ic máge me to him gebiddan. Þa tungel-witegan ferdon æfter þæs cyninges spræce, and efne ða se steorra, þe hí on east-dǽle gesawon, glad him beforan, oð þæt he gestód bufon ðam gesthúse, þær þæt cild on wunode. Hi gesáwon ðone steorran, and þearle blissodon. Eodon ða inn, and þæt cild gemetton mid Marian his meder, and niðerfeallende hí to him gebǽdon. Hi geopenodon heora hórdfatu, and him lác geoffrodon, gold, and recels, and myrram. Hwæt ða God on swefne hí gewarnode and bebead þæt hi eft ne cyrdon to ðan reðan cyninge Herode, ac þurh oðerne weg hine forcyrdon, and swa to heora eðele becomon. Efne ða Godes engel æteowode Iosepe, ðæs cíldes foster-fæder, on swefnum, cweðende, 'Arís, and nim þis cild mid þære meder, and fleoh to Egypta lánde, and beo þær oð þæt ic þe eft secge: soðlice toweard is þæt Herodes smeað hú hé þæt cild fordó.' Ioseph ða arás nihtes, and þæt cild mid þære meder samod to Egypta lánde ferede, and þær wunode oð þæt Herodes gewát; þæt seo witegung wære gefylled, þe be ðære fare ær ðus cwæð, Of Egypta lánde ic geclypode minne sunu." Matthew wrote, in the first book of Christ, in these words, of the birth-time of Jesus, and said, "When Jesus was born in the Judæan Bethlehem, in the days of Herod the king, behold there came from the east part of the earth three astrologers to the city of Jerusalem, thus inquiring, Where is the King of the Jewish people, who is born? Verily we saw his star in the east part, and we come in order that we may worship him. Now king Herod hearing this was greatly troubled, and all the citizens together with him. He then assembled all the chief bishops and scribes of the people, and inquired where the birthplace of Christ might be. They said, In the Judæan Bethlehem. Thus verily it is written by the prophet Micah, Ah thou Bethlehem, Judæan land, thou art in no wise meanest of cities among the Jewish princes: of thee shall come the Ruler who shall rule and govern the people of Israel. Then Herod called the three astrologers in separate discourse, and diligently questioned them at what time the star had first appeared to them, and sent them to Bethlehem, thus saying, Go instantly, and inquire concerning the child, and when ye find it, let me know, that I may worship him. After the king's speech the astrologers went, and lo, the star which they had seen in the east part glided before them, till it stood over the inn in which the child was staying. They saw the star and greatly rejoiced. They then went in, and found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they worshipped him. They opened their cases of treasure and offered him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Then God warned them in a dream, and commanded, that they should not return to the cruel king Herod, but should turn through another way, and so come to their own country. Lo, God's angel appeared to Joseph, the child's foster-father, in a dream, saying, 'Arise, and take this child with the mother, and flee to the land of Egypt, and be there until I speak to thee again: for it will come to pass that Herod will devise how he may fordo the child.' Joseph then arose by night, and conveyed the child together with the mother to the land of Egypt, and there staid until Herod departed; that the prophecy might be fulfilled which of old thus spake of that journey, From the land of Egypt I have called my son."
Nu secgað wyrd-writeras þæt Herodes betwux ðisum wearð gewréged to þam Romaniscan casere, þe ealne middangeard on þam timan geweold. Þa gewende he to Rome, be ðæs caseres hæse, þæt he hine betealde, gif he mihte. Þa betealde he hine swiðe geaplice, swa swa he wæs snotorwyrde to ðan swiðe, þæt se casere hine mid maran wurðmynte ongean to Iudeiscum rice asende. Þaþa he ham com, þa gemunde he hwæt he ær be ðan cilde gemynte, and geseah þæt he wæs bepæht fram ðam tungel-witegum, and wearð þa ðearle gegremod. Sende ða his cwelleras, and ofsloh ealle ða hyse-cild, þe wǽron on þære byrig Bethleem, and on eallum hyre gemærum, fram twywintrum cilde to anre nihte, be ðære tide þe hé geaxode æt ðam tungel-witegum. Þa wæs gefylled Hieremias wítegung, þe ðus witegode, "Stemn is gehyred on heannysse, micel wóp and ðoterung: Rachel beweop hire cildru, and nolde beon gefrefrod, forðan ðe hi ne sind." Now chroniclers say that in the meanwhile Herod was accused to the Roman emperor, who at that time ruled all the earth. He therefore went, by the emperor's command, to Rome, that he might clear himself, if he could. He cleared himself very cunningly, as he was so sagacious, that the emperor sent him back with great honour to the Jewish kingdom. When he came home he remembered what he had intended concerning the child, and saw that he had been deceived by the astrologers, and was exceedingly irritated. He then sent his executioners, and slew all the male children that were in the city of Bethlehem, and in all its boundaries, from the child of two years to that of one day, according to the time which he had inquired of the astrologers. Then was fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, who thus prophesied, "A voice is heard on high, great weeping and wailing: Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."
On ðam twelftan dæge Cristes acennednysse comon ða ðry tungel-witegan to Herode, and hine axodon be ðam acennedan cilde; and þaþa hí his cenning-stowe geaxodon, þa gewendon hí wið þæs cildes, and noldon ðone reðan cwellere eft gecyrran, swa swa he het. Þa ne mihte he forbugan þæs caseres hæse, and wæs ða, þurh his langsume fær, þæra cildra slege geuferod swiðor þonne he gemynt hæfde; and hí wurdon ða on ðysum dægþerlicum dæge wuldorfullice gemartyrode; na swa-þeah þæs geares þe Crist acenned wæs, ac æfter twegra geara ymbryne æfter ðæs wælhreowan hamcyme. On the twelfth day of Christ's birth the three astrologers came to Herod, and informed him concerning the child that was born; and when they had discovered his birthplace, they went to the child, and would not return to the cruel murderer, as he had commanded. He might not then avoid the emperor's command, and, therefore, through his long journey, the slaughter of the children was delayed more than he had intended; and they were on this present day gloriously martyred; not, however, in the year that Christ was born, but after the course of two years after the return of the cruel tyrant.
Næs hé æðelboren, ne him naht to þam cynecynne ne gebyrode; ac mid syrewungum and swicdome he becom to ðære cynelican geðincðe; swa swa Moyses be ðam awrát, Þæt ne sceolde ateorian þæt Iudeisce cynecynn, oþþæt Crist sylf come. Ða com Crist on ðam timan þe seo cynelice mæigð ateorode, and se ælfremeda Herodes þæs rices geweold. Þa wearð he micclum afyrht and anðracode þæt his rice feallan sceolde, þurh to-cyme þæs soðan cyninges. Þa clypode hé ða tungel-witegan on sunder-spræce, and geornlice hí befrán, on hwilcne timan hí ærest þone steorran gesawon; forðan ðe he ondred, swa swa hit gelamp, þæt hí eft hine ne gecyrdon. Þa het he forðy acwellan ealle ða hyse-cild þære burhscire, fram twywintrum cilde oð anre nihte: ðohte gif he hí ealle ofsloge, þæt se án ne ætburste þe he sohte. Ac he wæs ungemyndig þæs halgan gewrites, ðe cwyð, "Nis nán wisdom, ne nán ræd naht ongean God." He was not of noble birth, nor did he belong to the royal race; but by artifices and deception he attained to the kingly dignity; as Moses wrote concerning him, That the royal Jewish race should not decay until Christ himself came. Now Christ came at the time that the royal family was decayed, and the stranger Herod ruled the kingdom. Then was he greatly afraid and terrified lest his kingdom should fall through the coming of the true king. He called therefore the astrologers in separate converse, and diligently questioned them at what time they first saw the star; for he feared, as it came to pass, that they would not return to him. He therefore commanded all the children of that district, from the age of two years to that of one day, to be slain, that the one might not escape whom he sought. But he was unmindful of the holy scripture, which says, "No wisdom nor any counsel is aught against God."
Se swicola Herodes cwæð to ðam tungel-witegum, "Farað, and geornlice befrinað be ðam cilde, and cyðað me, þæt ic eac mage me to him gebiddan." Ac he cydde syððan his facenfullan syrewunge, hu he ymbe wolde, gif he hine gemette, ðaða he ealle his efenealdan adylegode for his anes ehtnysse. Þearflæs he syrwde ymbe Crist: ne com he forðy þæt he wolde his eorðlice rice, oþþe æniges oðres cyninges mid riccetere him to geteon; ac to ði hé com þæt he wolde his heofenlice rice geleaffullum mannum forgyfan. Ne com he to ðy þæt he wære on mærlicum cynesetle ahafen, ac þæt he wære mid hospe on rode hengene genæglod. He wolde ðeah þæs wælhreowan syrewunge mid fleame forbugan, na forði þæt he deað forfluge, seðe sylfwilles to ðrowienne middangearde genealæhte; ac hit wære to hrædlic, gif he ða on cild-cradole acweald wurde, swilce ðonne his to-cyme mancynne bedíglod wære; þi forhradode Godes engel þæs arleasan geþeaht, and bebead þæt se foster-fæder þone heofenlican æþeling of ðam earde ardlice ferede. The treacherous Herod said to the astrologers, "Go, and diligently inquire concerning the child, and let me know, that I may worship him." But he manifested afterwards his guileful artifice, how he would have done, if he had found him, when he destroyed all those of equal age, for the persecution of him alone. Needlessly he machinated against Christ: he came not because he would acquire for himself his earthly kingdom, or any other king's by violence; but he came because he would give his heavenly kingdom to believing men. He came not that he might be exalted on a pompous throne, but that he might with contumely be nailed hanging on a cross. Nevertheless, he would avoid the machination of the cruel tyrant by flight, not because he fled from death, who of his own will visited the world for the purpose of suffering; but it would have been too early, if he had been slain in the child's cradle, for his advent would then, as it were, be hidden from mankind; God's angel, therefore, prevented the impious counsel, and bade the foster-father convey the heavenly Prince forthwith from the country.
Ne forseah Crist his geongan cempan, ðeah ðe he lichamlice on heora slege andwerd nære; ac hé asende hí fram þisum wræcfullum life to his ecan rice. Gesælige hí wurdon geborene þæt hi moston for his intingan deað þrowian. Eadig is heora yld, seoðe þa gyt ne mihte Crist andettan, and moste for Criste þrowian. Hí wæron þæs Hælendes gewitan, ðeah ðe hí hine ða gyt ne cuðon. Næron hí gerípode to slege, ac hi gesæliglice þeah swulton to life. Gesælig wæs heora acennednys, forðan ðe hí gemetton þæt ece lif on instæpe þæs andweardan lifes. Hí wurdon gegripene fram moderlicum breostum, ac hi wurdon betæhte þærrihte engellicum bosmum. Ne mihte se mánfulla ehtere mid nanre ðenunge þam lytlingum swa micclum fremian, swa micclum swa hé him fremode mid ðære reðan ehtnysse hatunge. Hí sind gehátene martyra blostman, forðan ðe hí wæron swá swá up-aspringende blostman on middeweardan cyle ungeleaffulnysse, swilce mid sumere ehtnysse forste forsodene. Eadige sind þa innoðas þe hí gebæron, and ða breost þe swylce gesihton. Witodlice ða moddru on heora cildra martyrdome þrowodon; þæt swurd ðe þæra cildra lima þurh-árn becóm to ðæra moddra heortan; and neod is þæt hí beon efenhlyttan þæs ecan edleanes, þonne hí wæron geferan ðære ðrowunge. Hí wæron gehwæde and ungewittige acwealde, ac hí arisað on þam gemænelicum dome mid fullum wæstme, and heofenlicere snoternysse. Ealle we cumað to anre ylde on þam gemænelicum æriste, þeah ðe we nu on myslicere ylde of þyssere worulde gewiton. Christ despised not his young champions, though he was not bodily present at their slaughter; but he sent them from this miserable life to his eternal kingdom. Blessed they were born that they might for his sake suffer death. Happy is their age, which could not yet acknowledge Christ, and might for Christ suffer. They were witnesses of Jesus, though they yet knew him not. They were not ripened for slaughter, yet they blessedly died to life. Blessed was their birth, because they found everlasting life at the entrance of this present life. They were snatched from their mothers' breasts, but they were instantly committed to the bosoms of angels. The wicked persecutor could not by any service so greatly favour those little ones, so greatly as he favoured them by the fierce hate of persecution. They are called blossoms of martyrs, because they were as blossoms springing up in the midst of the chill of infidelity, consumed, as it were, by the frost of persecution. Blessed are the wombs which bare them, and the breasts that such have sucked. Verily the mothers suffered through their children's martyrdom; the sword that pierced their children's limbs entered the hearts of the mothers, and it is needful that they be partakers of the eternal reward, when they were companions of the suffering. They were slain while little and witless, but they shall arise at the common doom in full growth, and with heavenly wisdom. We shall all come to one age at the common resurrection, although we now in various age depart from this world.
Þæt godspel cweð þæt Rachel beweóp hire cildra, and nolde beon gefrefrod, forðan þe hí ne sind. Rachel hatte Iacobes wif, ðæs heahfæderes, and heo getacnode Godes gelaðunge, þe bewypð hire gastlican cild; ac heo nele swa beon gefrefrod, þæt hí eft to woruldlicum gecampe gehwyrfon, þa þe æne mid sygefæstum deaðe middangeard oferswiðdon, and his yrmða ætwundon to wuldorbeagienne mid Criste. The gospel says, that Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. Jacob the patriarch's wife was called Rachel, and she betokened God's church, which weeps for her ghostly children; but it will not so be comforted, that they again return to temporal strife, who once by a triumphant death have overcome the world, and escaped from its miseries to be crowned with glory with Christ.
Eornostlice ne breac se arleasa Herodes his cynerices mid langsumere gesundfulnysse, ac buton yldinge him becom seo godcundlice wracu, þe hine mid menigfealdre yrmðe fordyde, and eac geswutelode on hwilcum suslum he moste æfter forðsiðe ecelice cwylmian. Hine gelæhte unasecgendlic adl; his lichama barn wiðutan mid langsumere hætan, and he eal innan samod forswæled wæs, and toborsten. Him wæs metes micel lust, ac ðeah mid nanum ætum his gyfernysse gefyllan ne mihte. He hriðode, and egeslice hweos, and angsumlice siccetunga teah, swa þæt hé earfoðlice orðian mihte. Wæter-seocnyss hine ofereode, beneoðan þam gyrdle, to ðan swiðe, þæt his gesceapu maðan weollon, and stincende attor singallice of ðam toswollenum fotum fleow. Unaberendlic gyhða ofereode ealne ðone lichaman, and ungelyfendlic toblawennys his innoð geswencte. Him stód stíncende steam of ðam muðe, swa þæt earfoðlice ænig læce him mihte genealæcan. Fela ðæra læca hé acwealde; cwæð þæt hí hine gehælan mihton and noldon. Hine gedrehte singal slæpleast, swa þæt he þurhwacole niht buton slæpe adreah; and gif hé hwon hnáppode, ðærrihte hine drehton nihtlice gedwímor, swa þæt him ðæs slæpes ofþuhte. Þaða hé mid swiðlicum luste his lifes gewilnode, þa hét hé hine ferigan ofer ða eá Iordanen, ðærþær wæron gehæfde háte baðu, þe wǽron halwende gecwedene adligendum lichaman. Wearð þa eac his læcum geðuht þæt hí on wlacum ele hine gebeðedon. Ac ðaða hé wæs on ðissere beðunge geléd, þa wearð se lichama eal toslopen, swa þæt his eagan wendon on gelicnysse sweltendra manna, and hé læg cwydeleas butan andgite. Eft ðaða he com, þa het he hine ferigan to ðære byrig Hiericho. But the impious Herod did not enjoy his kingdom in long healthfulness, for without delay the divine vengeance came upon him, which afflicted him with manifold misery, and also manifested in what torments he must after death eternally suffer. An unspeakable disease seized him; his body burned without with a lasting heat, and all within he was inflamed and bursten. He had great craving for food, but yet with no viands could he satisfy his voracity, and fearfully rotted away, and dolefully fetched sighs, so that he could with difficulty breathe. Dropsy came on him, beneath the girdle, to that degree that his members swarmed with vermin, and stinking venom ever flowed from his swollen feet. Unbearable palsies spread over his whole body, and incredible inflation afflicted his entrails. Stinking vapour proceeded from his mouth, so that hardly any leech could approach him. Many of the leeches he slew; he said that they might heal him and would not. Constant sleeplessness afflicted him, so that he passed the whole night without sleep; and if he dozed a little, nightly phantoms immediately tormented him, so that he repented of his sleep. As he with violent longing desired his life, he commanded to be conveyed over the river Jordan, where there were hot baths, which were said to be salutary to diseased bodies. It then seemed good to his leeches that they should bathe him in lukewarm oil. But when he was led to this bathing, the body was all relaxed, so that his eyes turned to the likeness of dead men's, and he lay speechless, without sense. When he came to, he commanded to be borne to the city of Jericho.
Þaþa he wearð his lifes orwene, þa gelaðode he him to ealle ða Iudeiscan ealdras of gehwilcum burgum, and het hí on cwearterne beclysan, and gelangode him to his swustur Salome and hire wer Alexandrum, and cwæð, "Ic wát þæt ðis Iudeisce folc micclum blissigan wile mines deaðes; ac ic mæg habban arwurðfulle líc-ðenunge of heofigendre menigu, gif ge willað minum bebodum gehyrsumian. Swa ricene swa ic gewíte, ofsleað ealle ðas Iudeiscan ealdras, ðe ic on cwearterne beclysde, þonne beoð heora siblingas to heofunge geneadode, þa ðe wyllað mines forðsiðes fagnian." He ða his cempan to ðam slege genamode, and het heora ælcum fiftig scyllinga to sceatte syllan, þæt hi heora handa fram ðam blodes gyte ne wiðbrudon. Þaða hé mid ormætre angsumnysse wæs gecwylmed, þa het he his agenne sunu Antípatrem arleaslice acwellan, to-eacan þam twam þe hé ær acwealde. Æt nextan, ðaða hé gefredde his deaðes nealæcunge, þa het he him his seax aræcan to screadigenne ænne æppel, and hine sylfne hetelice ðyde, þæt him on acwehte. Þyllic wæs Herodes forðsið, þe mánfullice ymbe þæs heofenlican æþelinges to-cyme syrwde, and his efen-ealdan lytlingas unscæððige arleaslice acwealde. When he was hopeless of life he called to him all the Jewish elders from every city, and ordered them to be confined in prison, and sent for his sister Salome and her husband Alexander, and said, "I know that this Jewish people will greatly rejoice at my death; but I may have an honourable funeral attendance of a mourning multitude, if ye will obey my commands. As soon as I depart, slay all the Jewish elders whom I have confined in prison, then will their relations be compelled to mourn, who will rejoice at my departure." He then appointed his soldiers to that slaughter, and commanded fifty shillings as reward to be given to each of them, that they might not withdraw their hands from the shedding of blood. When he was tormented with intense agony he wickedly commanded his own son Antipater to be killed, in addition to the two whom he had killed previously. At last, when he was sensible of his death's approach, he commanded them to reach him his knife to shred an apple, and violently stabbed himself, so that it quaked in him. Such was the death of Herod, who wickedly machinated on the coming of the heavenly Prince, and impiously killed the innocent little ones, his equals in age.
Efne ða Godes engel, æfter Herodes deaðe, æteowode Iosepe on swefnum, on Egypta lande, þus cweðende, "Arís, and nim þæt cild and his moder samod, and gewend ongean to Israhela lande; soðlice hí sind forðfarene, ðaðe ymbe þæs cildes feorh syrwdon." Hé ða arás, swa swa se engel him bebead, and ferode þæt cild mid þære meder to Israhela lande. Þa gefrán Ioseph þæt Archelaus rixode on Iudea lande, æfter his fæder Herode, and ne dorste his neawiste genealæcan. Þa wearð he eft on swefne gemynegod þæt he to Galilea gewende, forðan ðe se eard næs ealles swa gehende þam cyninge, þeah ðe hit his rice wære. Þæt cild ða eardode on þære byrig þe is gehaten Nazareth, þæt seo wítegung wære gefylled, þe cwæð, þæt he sceolde beon Nazarenisc geciged. Se engel cwæð to Iosepe, "Þa sind forðfarene, þe embe ðæs cildes feorh syrwdon." Mid þam worde he geswutelode þæt má ðæra Iudeiscra ealdra embe Cristes cwale smeadon; ac him getimode swiðe rihtlice þæt hí mid heora arleasan hlaforde ealle forwurdon. Lo, then, God's angel, after the death of Herod, appeared to Joseph in a dream, in the land of Egypt, thus saying, "Arise, and take the child together with his mother, and go again to the land of Israel; for they are dead, who machinated against the child's life." He then arose, as the angel had commanded him, and conveyed the child with the mother to the land of Israel. Then Joseph learned that Archelaus reigned in Judæa after Herod his father, and he durst not approach his presence. Then again he was admonished in a dream that he should go to Galilee, because the country there was not quite so near to the king, though it was in his kingdom. The child then dwelt in the city which is called Nazareth, that the prophecy might be fulfilled, which said, that he should be called a Nazarene. The angel said to Joseph, "They are dead who machinated against the child's life." With that word he manifested that more of the Jewish elders meditated the slaying of Christ; but it befell them very rightly, that they with their impious lord all perished.
Nelle we ðas race na leng teon, þylæs ðe hit eow æðryt þince; ac biddað eow þingunge æt þysum unscæððigum martyrum. Hi sind ða ðe Criste folgiað on hwitum gyrlum, swa hwider swa hé gæð; and hí standað ætforan his ðrymsetle, butan ælcere gewemmednysse, hæbbende heora palmtwigu on handa, and singað þone niwan lofsang, þam Ælmihtigan to wurðmynte, seþe leofað and rixað á butan ende. Amen. We will not longer extend this narrative, lest it may seem tedious to you, but will pray for the intercession of these innocent martyrs for you. They are those who follow Christ in white garments, whithersoever he goeth; and they stand before his throne, without any impurity, having their palm-twigs in hand, and sing the new hymn in honour of the Almighty, who liveth and ruleth ever without end. Amen.