Monday, December 26, 2016

Feast of St. Stephen, protomartyr

In the British Commonwealth today is Boxing Day, as folks used to receive their Christmas boxes from their employers on this day.

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Bernardo Daddi, ca. 1324AD.

Today, 26 December, is, more importantly, the Feast of St. Stephen, the proto-martyr and deacon, and the second day of the Christmas Octave.

In Acts 6:5 we read of his appointment as a deacon.  We next find him disputing with the Jews.

The Acts of the Apostles, in Chapter 7, notes that the Jews reacted to the rather direct words of St. Stephen thus:
54 Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart: and they gnashed with their teeth at him. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heavensaw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God56 And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God57 And they, crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears and with one accord ran violently upon him. 58 And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul59 And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit60 And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge: And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his death.
For more on Saint Stephen, follow these links:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Stephen

Catholic Saints Info: St. Stephen the Martyr

Seasonal Customs (Fisheaters): St. Stephen the Deacon

From that last link, we have this splendid reflection on St. Stephen:
By St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (b. 468)

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the Virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven. 

Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches. And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth ot heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in His soldier. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. 

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end. 

My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

Merry Christmas & live well!

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