St Stephen, Protomartyr

Friday 26 December 2008

SANCTI STEPHANI, Protomartyris
St. Stephen, the first Martyr

2nd Class, Red
Gloria; Credo; Preface of the Nativity
Proper Communic diem sacratissimum
Commemoration of the Octave of the Nativity at all Masses

Concéde, quæsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut nos Unigéniti tui nova per carnem Natívitas líberet; quos sub peccáti jugo vetústa sérvitus tenet. Per eúmdem Dóminum.

Let us pray.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the new birth, in the flesh, of thine only-begotten Son, may deliver us whom slavery from of old doth keep under the yoke of sin. Through the same.


From matins, the Office of Readings for today(1), the feast of St Stephen, the first martyr:

From the Acts of the Apostles:

The members of the Council...became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory, and Jesus standing at the right side of God. "Look!" he said. "I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!"

...Then they all rushed together at him at once, threw him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in charge of a young man named Saul. They kept on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!" He said this and died. And Saul approved of his murder.

From a sermon by St Fulgentius of Ruspe:

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal king; today we celebrate the triumphant death of a soldier.

...The love then that brought Christ down from heaven to earth, lifted Stephen from earth to heaven. The love that showed itself first in the kind, shone forth next in the soldier. And Stephen, so as to deserve to win the crown -- which is what his name means -- had love as his weapon and by it was everywhere victorious. Through love of God he did not yield to the raging of the Jews, and through love of his neighbour he prayed for those who were stoning him...

Trusting in the strength of love he overcame the cruel raging of Saul, and so won for himself as a companion in heaven, the man who had been his persecutor on earth. ...And now Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he enjoys the brightness of Christ; he exults with Stephen, he reigns with Stephen.

What a really true life must there be now, brethren, where Paul is not put to confusion although he killed Stephen, but where, instead, Stephen rejoices in the fellowship of Paul; for in both of them love itself rejoices. In Stephen, love overcame the ferocity of the Jews, in Paul it covered a multitude of sins, and in both of them love deserved to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Love, therefore, is the origin and source of all good things; it is a most excellent defence, the road that leaves to heaven. Whoever walks in love can neither stray nor be afraid. Love guides, love protects, love leads to the end.

(1) - Divine Office, vol. I, pp. 46* - 50*.



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