Skip to comments.A few considerations on St. Stephen's martyrdom
Posted on 12/26/2005 1:57:51 PM PST by Teˇfilo
Today we celebrate the memorial feast day of St. Stephen, deacon, and first Christian martyr. We all know about him from the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6 and 7, where St. Luke gives us some details about his office, his character, his spirit, and his witness.
"Martyr" is a word that comes to us from the Greek and means "witness." To be "martyred" means "to give witness," often through one's own death, to something the martyr knows as true.From St. Stephen's actions we learn what Christian martyrdom truly entails.
A Christian's martyr-witness unto death is modeled after that of Christ. A martyr is guilty of not being afraid and men can't tolerate such a one; a martyr holds his or her life in lesser esteem to the Truth that he or she gives witness to.In St. Stephen we see the model of all the martyrs that were to follow him. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, Tertullian once saidand he was right, of course. St. Stephen showed us the way.
A Christian martyr is innocent of all the accusations leveled against him; his words are always misconstrued, his actions shown in the worst possible light, his mere existence made intolerable.
A Christian martyr doesn't resist his tormentors. The martyr, in fact, allows himself to be lead "like a lamb to the slaughter" to what he knows will be his own death.
A Christian martyr doesn't curse his executioners, in fact, like Christ before him, the martyr forgives them.
A Christian martyr consumes himself like a candle in the darkness, giving his light until he is no more; a martyr is like a holocaust, burning himself to ashes in a kind of "uselessness" in honor of the Supreme Majesty for whom no such act is never "useless."
Christian martyrs do not take others to his death, nor does he maim others in the process. A Christian martyr only takes responsibility for his own death and that up to a certain point, for a martyr is not a suicide, his death is not meant to shock or degrade his actions of belief. Rather, the martyr knows where his acts of courage and supreme freedom will take him; the martyr embraces the consequences of his witness.Christian martyrs don't strap themselves in explosives, or drive trucks or planes laden with them against people and property; he knows that such a distortion of the original Christian witness will land him in the deepest part of hell, where blasphemers go. The Christian martyr knows that only a Christ-like death would atone for all his remaining sins, their effect, and their punishment. He avoids adding more sins at that supreme moment, sins that will soil the meaning of his death at the very instant that he will no longer be able to repent and ask forgiveness. The death of Christ, if it is to be repeated in the martyr, cannot be tainted with the murder of innocents.
Finally, a Christian martyr sees Christ standing up at the right of the Father, waiting for his ascension, ready to welcome him to His side.
St. Stephen, Deacon and Proto-martyr, pray for us!
Happy Second Day of Christmas to you.
Dear brothers and sisters!
After celebrating the Solemnity of the Birth of Christ yesterday, let us remember the birth in heaven of St Stephen, the first martyr.
Yesterday, the Lord was born on earth so that Stephen may be born in heaven. Following the Ambrosian liturgy, such words are pronounced when breaking the bread and best summarise the unique connection between these two celebrations.
Like Jesus on the Cross who put his full trust in the Father and forgave his killers, Stephen, at the moment of his death, called out: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. [. . .] Lord, do not hold this sin against them (cf Acts, 7: 59-60).
Stephen was a true disciple of Jesus, someone who emulated Him to perfection. With Stephen begins the long series of martyrs who sealed their faith by offering their life to proclaim with their heroic witness that God was made man and open the path to the Kingdom of Heaven for mankind.
To speak about St Stephens martyrdom in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas is not out of place. Indeed, the cross already cast its shadow on the manger in Bethlehem. This was foretold by the poor stable where the Child wailed, by the prophecy of Simeon on the sign of contradiction and the sword that would pierce the Virgins soul, and by Herods persecution which made the flight to Egypt necessary.
It is not surprising that upon reaching adult age the Child should call on his disciples to follow him on the path of the Cross with total trust and faithfulness.
Drawn by His example and sustained by His love, many Christians from the dawn of the Church bore witness to their faith with their blood. Others have followed the first martyrs across the centuries until now.
How not to see that, even in our times and in various parts of the world, being Christian requires a martyrs heroism? How not to recognise that everywhere, even where there is no persecution, living the Gospel coherently carries a high price.
Contemplating the divine Child in Marys arms and looking at the example of St Stephen, let us ask God to grant us the grace of living our faith coherently, always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope (cf 1 Pt, 3: 15).
John (or Jan) Hus sounds like he fit the definition of "martyr" perfectly...
Heretics are not always bereft of grace.
And on this note, I am not passing judgment on Jan Hus' many merits--which he had--demerits--which he also had--and treatment by the Church--which was not free of criticism. That's another subject.
Well done! Hope you ahd a merry Christmas. Can't let the feast of Saint Stephen go by without this:
Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?
Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes fountain.
Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold winds wild lament and the bitter weather.
Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.
Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winters rage freeze your blood less coldly.
In his masters steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.
December 26, 2006
(d. 36 A.D.?)
All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters six and seven. It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:
At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek-speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.... (Acts 6:1-5)
Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.
In his speech, Stephen recalled Gods guidance through Israels history, as well as Israels idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. [Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors (Acts 7:51b).
His speech brought anger from the crowd. But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.... They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him....As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).
Saint Stephen, First Martyr
The Martyrdom of St Stephen
1603-04 - Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paris
St. Stephen was a deacon in the early Church and was the first Christian martyred for his faith. He was one of the seven deacons who helped the apostles (Acts 6:1-6) and was "filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit," and was "full of fortitude" (Acts 6:5,8). Stephen died praying for his executioners. The similarities between Stephen's martyrdom and the crucifixion of Our Lord emphasize his imitation of Christ even unto the complete gift of self. His name is included in the Roman Canon.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
today we celebrate the entrance of St. Stephen
into eternal glory.
He died praying for those who killed him.
Help us to imitate his goodness
and to love our enemies.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading: Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59
And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be thou a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
Yea, thou art my rock and my fortress;
for thy name's sake lead me and guide me,
Into thy hand I commit my spirit;
thou hast redeemed me,
O LORD, faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad for thy steadfast love,
because thou hast seen my affliction,
My times are in thy hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors!
Let thy face shine on thy servant;
save me in thy steadfast love!
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:17-22
Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Related Link on the Vatican Website: