One day after the joyful celebration of Christmas, the Church remembers her first martyr, Saint Stephen, stoned for his faith in Christ.

saint_stephen

On Christmas Day we celebrate the gift of divine life in flesh and blood and on the Feast of Saint Stephen we already are called to understand what taking on divine life in baptism might mean.

Saint Stephen was the first of many Christian martyrs who shed their blood for their faith. The unique ancient source for details about him is in the New Testament book, the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 6 and 7), written by Saint Luke the Evangelist.

According to the narrative, Stephen was one of the first deacons chosen to serve the first community of believers in Jesus in Jerusalem in the 30s of the first century. He is described as a Greek speaking Jew, a man of profound faith and great eloquence. His preaching in Jerusalem aroused the ire of the Jewish authorities, who plot against him.

Stephen was brought to trial, the accusations against him being similar to those made against Jesus himself:: that he spoke against the Temple.

Stephen's eloquent speech at his trial in defense of the Christian faith is one of the longest in the Acts of the Apostles. It traces the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to Jesus. His hearers, filled with anger, take him out and stone him to death. Stephen's death was witnessed by Saul, who still had not met the Resurrected Lord and was part of the opposition to Stephen's preaching. He would later become known as Saint Paul.

Stephen's death inspired generations of Christian martyrs and we might pray that we be granted his courage and understanding.