Tuesday, December 26, 2017
December 26 - St. Stephen, Proto-Martyr
+ Today in the shadow of the pinnacle of the Christmas celebration we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr, the first to give his life for the truths proclaimed by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ the Lord (as a composite whole), the first member of the Church to give his life for its founder.
All we know of Stephen is related in the Acts of the Apostles. He was one of the first deacons, and a preacher; and while preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews who were angry at him for berating them, and believing his theological message to be blasphemy, dragged him outside the city, and stoned him to death. In the crowd, to the sight of the mob, who did nothing to stop the killing was a man who would later be known as St. Paul the Apostle. Before he died, Stephen asked God to forgive his attackers. This happened around the year 33.
And so, the veracity of the religion was shifted into a higher gear; and a tremendous example of martyrdom included one of Jesus’ most difficult sayings: pray for your persecutors, and even to expect to be put to death on account of his Name!
Stephen’s own words – Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, (echoing Christ’s own words on the Cross: into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit) – ought to be ours at all times – so that we live and die as members of Christ, joyfully, and as instruments of peace in his hands.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord:
the Lord is God and has given us light.
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