Tuesday, December 26, 2006

St. Stephen

Today is the feast day of my baptismal patron, St. Stephen. My middle name is Stephen, after my dad. Acts chapter 6 describes when Stephen, along with "Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism" (Acts 6, 5), were selected by the apostles as the first deacons to assist with daily distribution among the early Christian community's widows because it was "not right for [the apostles]to neglect the word of God to serve at table" (Acts 6,2).

If, as Tertullian famously wrote, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians", celebrating the feast of the first martyr the day after the Nativity of our Lord is not so unusual because his martyrdom, like Pentecost, is a birthing event of the Christian Church. As I entered the sanctuary at Holy Family Parish this morning and saw the sea of poinsettas, it reminded me both of Christmas and the red blood of the martyrs, among whom St. Stephen is preeminent. The story of Stephen's martyrdom, found in Acts, chapter 7, is also where St. Paul is introduced into the Christian story. Referring to St. Stephen's preaching, in which he masterfully recounts salvation history, culminating with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the author of The Acts of the Apostles, writes: "When they heard this"- referring to the Greek-speaking Jews- "they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, 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.' But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them'; and when he said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7,54-60).

It is also interesting to note that the reason Good King Wenceslas is considered something of a Christmas carol, is because he "looked out On the feast of Stephen", or 26 December.

Holy Mary, Mother of God - pray for us
St. Joseph - pray for us
St. Stephen - pray for us
St. Martin of Tours - pray for us
St. Francis of Assisi - pray for us
St. Clare - pray for us
St. Therese of Lisieux - pray for us
All holy men and women - pray for us.

Lord,
today we celebrate the entrance of Saint 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.

2 comments:

  1. Did you know that Genesis is the only 5000 year old document that has the same order of creation that Science has discovered today. There are a few areas in creation that science has yet to figure out, but when they do, it will have already been written in Genesis. I challenge anyone to find a written religious document that is 5000 years old or older that contains the order of creation as science as discovered it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well stated Doug. In fact, I have noticed that the first of the two creation stories we encounter in Genesis, the one with which most people are famailiar, found in Genesis chapter one and concluding with Genesis, chapter 2, verse 3, does have something of an evolutionary structure. As God's ru'ha, or breath, is breathed out over the lifeless waters, life begins to emerge. In this narrative, the way life emerges is from the simplest to most complex, culminating in human beings.

    Of course, the second story has it the opposite way, with the male human being first of God's creatures. Genesis, however, deals with the why of creation; science deals with the how. You are correct in that it is of more than passing interest.

    ReplyDelete