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.
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.