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December 28

The Holy Innocents

4th Day of the Octave of the Nativity of the Lord


On the 4th Day of Christmas....
(The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)

The Story of the Holy Innocents

Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts and, warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob/Israel. She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.



We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish you rule of justice, love and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.





Chapel of the Milk Grotto
The Milk Grotto (or "Grotto of the Lady Mary") is where Mary is said to have nursed Jesus during the Slaughter of the Innocents.

"And after the wise men departed, behold 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." Matthew II 13-19. 

A legend recalls how Mary spilt some milk while breast feeding baby Jesus thus turning the stone of this cave a "white stone" color. The church was built on this site and contains the"white stone rock"The powdery substance of this rock is evident to this very day. 


The site is sacred to Christian and Muslim pilgrims alike and especially frequented by new mothers and women who are trying to conceive.


Customs & Traditions:


As to customs, the youngest child "rules the day." It is the youngest who decides the day's foods, drinks, music, entertainments, etc. (if you have a number of small children, you might want to divide up the honors among them). 

In Spain and Hispanic countries like Mexico, Childermas is rather like April Fools Day is in America and France. Tricks are pulled, and the one tricked is called "Innocente!" rather than an "April Fool!" In many places, it is the young who play tricks -- on their elders, whom they often lock inside rooms and such until the oldsters pay a ransom!

To recall the blood of the martyrs, a food with a red color, especially a pudding or ice cream with a red sauce, such as raspberry, is traditional.  

The father of the home should formally bless the children. A common way of doing this is as follows:




Father: O Lord, hear my prayer.

All: And let my cry come unto Thee.

Father: Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, once Thou embraced and placed Thy hands upon the little children who came to Thee, and said:

"Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!" Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents' devotion, and bless them this day through our prayers.

The father signs the forehead of each child with holy water.

Father: In Thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for Thee, loving Thee, fearing Thee, keeping Thy commandments.

Then they will surely come to their destined home, through Thee, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

All: Amen.

Father: May God bless you. And may He keep your hearts and minds -- the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

All: Amen.





Scandinavian Berry Sauce


  • 1/4 water

  • 1 cup of strawberries (fresh or frozen)

  • 1 cup of blackberries (fresh or frozen)

  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

  • 1/4 cup of water

  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch


  1. Wash strawberries and/or blackberries.  

    Remove stems; cut large berries in half or roughly chop them.

  2. Combine water, strawberries or blackberries or both in a saucepan.

    With this recipe we chose to have both berries.

    Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and bring to boil.

  3. After it gets hot add 2 tablespoons of sugar.

    Bring to a simmer over medium heat until sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes.

    Adjust sugar, if necessary, and cook until dissolved.

  4. Keep in mind it will take a while until the fruit will become soft. 

    So, you will need to keep stirring the sauce too.

  5. Next, in a cup or small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water.

    Gently stir the cornstarch mixture into the berries so as not to mash the berries.

  6. Cook until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

  7. Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. 

    Thin sauce with water if it is too thick for your liking.

Blueberry Balsamic Pork Chops


  • 8 boneless center loin pork chops

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cloves minced garlic

  • Salt and pepper to season

  • ½ cup white wine or chicken stock

  • ½ tsp thyme

  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 cup blueberries fresh or frozen

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 2 tbsp honey

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tsp corn starch

  • 1 ounce water



  1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

  2. Pan fry the pork chops in the olive oil and garlic until completely cooked about 4-5 minutes per side. (or grill them on a gas or charcoal grill) Hold the pork chops in a warm oven.

  3. Add the blueberries, balsamic vinegar, wine (or stock), thyme, nutmeg and brown sugar and honey. Simmer to reduce the volume of the sauce by half. Add the lemon juice and butter and simmer for an additional minute or so until the sauce slightly thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spoon the sauce over the cooked pork chops.

  4. If your blueberries are particularly juicy and especially when using frozen berries, you can thicken the sauce slightly if necessary by adding a slurry at the end made by dissolving together 1 tsp corn starch and 1 ounce cold water.

  5. When using grilled pork chops instead of pan-fried just begin the sauce by lightly sauteing the garlic, then add the other ingredients as directed.

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce


Panna Cotta:
  • 3 cups cream

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped 

  • 1 1/4-ounce packet (1 tablespoon) gelatin powder 

  • 2/3 cup sugar 

  • Pinch salt 

  • 1/2 cup milk

Berry Sauce:
  • 3 cups mixed raspberries and blueberries

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar 

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 

  • Zest of 1 lemon 

For the panna cotta:

  1. Heat the cream, vanilla extract and vanilla bean in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until milk bubbles form at the sides of the pan, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl dissolve the gelatin in 3 tablespoons hot tap water. Stir until the gelatin completely dissolves, about 1 minute.

  3. Stir the sugar into the hot cream. Add the salt and the gelatin mixture to the cream as well. Whisk until the sugar dissolves, then whisk in the milk and stir again. Pour into the ramekins.

  4. Refrigerate the panna cotta until set, at least 4 hours. Stored in the refrigerator, the panna cotta keeps for several days.

For the berry sauce:

  1. In a medium saucepot set over medium heat, add the berries, sugar, lemon juice and zest.

  2. Bring to a boil and cook until the berries burst and the liquid starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.

  3. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, forcing the berries through by pushing and scraping with a rubber spatula. The more you force through, the thicker the sauce will be (the pulp closest to the seeds contains the most pectin, which is a natural thickener).

  4. Let cool completely and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

  5. Spoon the sauce over the panna cotta and serve.


Songs of the season:

Ding Dong Merrily on High

CIMORELLI - The Coventry Carol

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