Monday, 28 December 2009

The Holy Innocents

The Christmas octave includes a number of feast days, many of which are depicted in the Cathedral's stained glass windows. Among the more unusual scenes is an image of King Herod, which symbolises today's feast: that of the Holy Innocents. St Matthew records how Herod, frightened of losing his power to the new-born King, ordered that all baby boys under two years of age should be put to death. The victims of this massacre are known at the Holy Innocents. In the window we see Herod with his foot resting on a child to symbolise his crime, while a serpent - a symbol of the temptor - speaks into his ear. A fox stands by his side, to remind us of Jesus' words when he described Herod's son (the King Herod we meet in Jesus' adult life) as 'that fox'. The window contrasts Herod's evil actions with the welcome which Jesus gave to little children, seen in the right-hand image.