Herod then with fear was filled;
‘A prince’, he said, ‘in Jewry!’
All the little boys he killed
at Bethl’em in his fury.

(Sung: Solo, Choir, Children)

Today is Childermas, Children’s Mass, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

In the Middle Ages, both St. Nicholas’ Day and today were the times when Boy Bishops were installed.

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A boy, usually a cathedral chorister, was chosen and vested in episcopal regalia. At Vespers, when the verse deposuit potentes de sede (He hath cast down the mighty from their thrones) was sung, the bishop left his throne, and while the verse et exaltavit humiles (and He hath exalted the lowly) was being sung, the Boy Bishop sat in the throne. He gave a blessing and preached a sermon.

The boys celebrated afterwards, and sometimes things got out of hand, and both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation largely suppressed the Boy Bishops.Boy Bishop 3

The custom has been revived in some Anglican cathedrals and parishes.

Here is one of the prayers used in the ceremony:

O Almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and infants art pleased to perfect praise: Grant this thy son grace, that he may praise thee with a child-like heart.  Keep him, O Lord, from wandering thoughts and all irreverence, and from whatsoever other sin may most easily beset him; and make us all to glorify thy holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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