Thought for the Day – 26 December – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
St Stephen, the First Martyr
“Among the original seven Deacons nominated by the Apostles, there was one name Stephen, who was outstanding for his sanctity and extraordinary spiritual gifts. Being enlightened by God, this young man dared to rebuke the Jews in public for their hardness of heart and openly defended the doctrine of Christ, Whom he proclaimed to be the Saviour and Redeemer of the world. One day when he was threatened by his foes, Stephen raised his eyes trustfully towards Heaven and said: “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The Jews could no longer restrain their fury and proceeded to drag the young man outside the city. There they left their garments in the care of a youth named Saul, while they savagely stoned Stephen to death. Stricken to his knees by the force of the missiles, the saintly young disciple continued to look towards Heaven. “Lord Jesus,” he cried, “receive my spirit.” Before he breathed his last, he forgave his enemies in the manner of his divine Master. “Lord,” he prayed, “do not lay this sin against them.” And with these words he fell asleep (Cf Acts 7:51-60; 8:1-2).
Let us admire and imitate the courage of this Martyr. We may never be called on, to endure a martyrdom of blood on behalf of our faith but, we shall almost certainly be obliged to undergo the martyrdom of the assault of the passions on our purity of soul, or of severe physical or mental suffering… If we accept these trials from God with perfect resignation and love, they will certainly prove as valuable to us, as real martyrdom. If we endure them with the courage and fortitude of St Stephen, we shall be rewarded as he was, by seeing Jesus standing at the right hand of God and offering us the palm of victory!”
Quote/s of the Day – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
“And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth, raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the King, it later shone forth in his soldier.”
“Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle and so won the crown signified by his name.” (The meaning of the anme STEPHEN is “crown/wreath”)
“His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour 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.”
“Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed, to gain by prayer, those, whom he could not convert, by admonition.”
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them” – Acts 7:60
REFLECTION – “Let us imitate our Lord and pray for our enemies … He was crucified yet, at the same time, prayed to His Father for the sake of those who were crucifying Him. But how could I possibly imitate our Lord, one might ask? If you want to, you can. If you weren’t able to do it how could He have said: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart”? (Mt 11:29) …
If you have difficulty in imitating our Lord, at least imitate him who is also His servant, his deacon. I would speak of Stephen. Just as Christ, in the midst of those crucifying Him, without considering the cross, without considering His own predicament, pleaded with the Father on behalf of His tormentors (Lk 23:34), so His servant, surrounded by those who were stoning him, attacked by all, crushed beneath a hail of stones and without taking any account of the suffering they were causing him, said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Do you see how the Son spoke and how His servant prayed? The former said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and the latter said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Moreover, to make us realise better the fervour with which he was praying, he did not just pray as he stood beneath the blows of the stones but he spoke on his knees with sincerity and compassion …
Christ said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen cried out: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Paul, in his turn, said: “I offer up this sacrifice for my brethren, my kin according to race” (cf. Rm 9:3). Moses said: “If you would only forgive their sin! And if you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written!” (Ex 32:32). David said: “May your hand fall on me and my kindred,” (2 Sam 24:17). … What kind of forgiveness do we think we shall get if we ourselves do the opposite of what is asked of us and pray against our enemies, when the Lord Himself and His servants of both Old and New Testaments, direct us to pray on their behalf?” – St John Chrysostom (345-407) Father and Doctor of the Church – Sermon for Good Friday “The Cross and the bandit”
PRAYER – Grant us Your Grace, Lord God Almighty, to practise what we worship. Teach us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. As we keep the feast of Saint Stephen, may we learn from him, who learned from You and prayed, even for the men who stoned him to death. Through Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God now and forever, amen.
St Abadiu of Antinoë Bl Agata Phutta Bi Bl Agnès Phila St Amaethlu of Anglesey St Archelaus of Mesopotamia Bl Bibiana Khamphai Bl Cecilia Butsi Bl Daniel of Villiers St Pope Dionysius (Died 268) St Euthymius of Sardis St Evaristo of Constantinople Bl Giovanni Orsini Bl Jean of Hainaut Bl Lucie Khambang St Margaret of Hohenfels Bl Maria Phon Bl Marinus of Rome Bl Paganus of Lecco Bl Pierre Boffet St Tathai of Wales St Theodore the Sacristan St Vincenza Maria Lopez (1847- 1890) Biography: https://anastpaul.com/2019/12/26/saint-of-the-day-26-december-saint-vincenza-maria-lopez-1847-1890/ St Zeno of Gaza St Pope Zosimus
Thought for the Day – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
The Armament of Love
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (460-533)
An excerpt from his Sermon 3
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 brought His soldiers a great gift, that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in His divinity. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvellous way He changed into wealth, the poverty of His faithful follower,s 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 to heaven – shown first in the king, it later shone forth in His soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob, his love for his neighbour 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. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love, he longed to gain by prayer, those whom he could not convert by admonition.
Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob and it was Paul’s love, that covered the multitude of his sins, it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things, it is an impregnable defence 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.
Quote/s of the Day – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
“Love, indeed, is the source of all good things, it is an impregnable defence 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.”
St Fulgentius of Ruspe (460-533)
“He [St Stephen], followed the Lord in what may be, by nature, the most difficult and even, apparently, impossible for the human heart. He fulfilled the command to love one’s enemies, as did the Saviour Himself. The Child in the manger, who has come to fulfill His Father’s will, even to death on the Cross, sees before Him in spirit, all who will follow Him on this way. His heart goes out to the youth whom He will one day await with a palm as the first to reach the Father’s throne. His little hand points him out to us, as an example, as if to say, “See the gold that I expect of you.”
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
[Edith Stein] (1891-1942)
“For believers, the day of death and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything but rather, the “passage” to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth, the “dies natalis.” Thus is understood, the link that exists between the “dies natalis” of Christ and the “dies natalis” of St Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Precisely because Christ was born, we are able to be “reborn.”
One Minute Reflection – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave, Readings: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Psalm31:3-4, 6, 8, 16-17, Matthew 10:17-22
“… You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” … Matthew 10:22
REFLECTION – “When the blood of Stephen was shed, Saul, then a young man, was standing by “consenting unto his death” and “kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20). Two speeches are recorded of the Martyr in his last moments one, in which he prayed that God would pardon his murderers – the other, his witness, that he saw the heavens opened and Jesus on God’s right hand. His prayer was wonderfully answered. Stephen saw his Saviour, the next vision of that Saviour to mortal man was vouchsafed to that very young man, even Saul, who share in his murder and his intercession.
Strange indeed it was and what would have been St Stephen’s thoughts could he have known it! The prayers of righteous men avail much. The first Martyr had power with God to raise up the greatest Apostle. Such was the honour put upon the first-fruits of those sufferings, upon which the Church was entering. Thus, from the beginning, the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the Church.” … St John Henry Newman (1801-1890) Cardinal, Theologian, Apologist – Parochial and Plain Sermons II #9
C. By the merits and prayers of blessed Stephen
R. Be merciful, O God, to Your people
Almighty and everlasting God, who consecrated the first-fruits of Your martyrs in the blood of blessed Stephen the deacon, grant, we beg You, that he may pray for us, even as he prayed for his persecutors, to our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen
St Abadiu of Antinoë
Bl Agata Phutta Bi
Bl Agnès Phila
St Amaethlu of Anglesey
St Archelaus of Mesopotamia
Bl Bibiana Khamphai
Bl Cecilia Butsi
Bl Daniel of Villiers
St Dionysius, Pope
St Euthymius of Sardis
St Evaristo of Constantinople
Bl Giovanni Orsini
Bl Jean of Hainaut
Bl Lucie Khambang
St Margaret of Hohenfels
Bl Maria Phon
Bl Marinus of Rome
Bl Paganus of Lecco
Bl Pierre Boffet
St Tathai of Wales
St Theodore the Sacristan St Vincenza Maria Lopez (1847- 1890)
St Zeno of Gaza
St Pope Zosimus
Our Morning Offering – 26 December – The Memorial of St Stephen the First Martyr and the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
O Sweet Name of Jesus By Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)
O sweet Name of Jesus,
holy above all names
in heaven and on earth
and to which every knee,
both of men
and of angels in heaven,
on earth and in hell bends.
You are the the Way of the just,
the Glory of the saints,
the Hope of those in need,
the Balm of the sick,
the Love of the devout
and the Consolation
of those that suffer.
O, Jesus be to me a help
and a protector
so that Your Name
may be blessed for all times.
Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) CRSA …(Manualis Parvulorum XIII)
The Apostles chose Stephen the Deacon, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, who was stoned while he prayed, saying “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and lay not this sin upon them.”
C. By the merits and prayers of blessed Stephen
R. Be merciful, O God, to Your people
Almighty and everlasting God,
who consecrated the first-fruits of Your martyrs
in the blood of blessed Stephen the deacon,
grant, we beg You,
that he may pray for us,
even as he prayed for his persecutors,
to our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son,
who lives and reigns,
world without end.
Saint of the Day – 26 December – St Stephen, the ProtoMartyr (c 05-c 34) – 26 December the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
“As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Greek-speaking Christians complained about the Hebrew-speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 6:1-5).
Acts of the Apostles says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.
In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “…you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).
Stephen’s speech brought anger from the crowd. “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.’ …They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. …As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ …’Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).
Thought for the Day – 26 December – The Memorial of St Stephen the First Martyr and the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
Today the Church remembers the witness of Saint Stephen, the first of the Church’s martyrs. The cruelty of his death is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, as is the manner in which he died, transforming the violence that took his life into an occasion to give witness to an authority greater than those fallen powers who would rule us by fear and threats.
That the Church remembers Saint Stephen today is no accident. Strip away the sentimentality that obscures the story of Christ’s Nativity and one realises that Christ came into this world and from the first instant He showed His infant face, He was opposed. Recall yesterday’s excerpt from the magnificent prologue to the Gospel of John which testifies that Christ came to His own (us) and His own (again, that means us) “knew him not.” But worse than this- we refused Him.
And many still do.
The Holy Child came ready for this fight and the world was willing to fight Him. However, the world discovered that it was outmatched and the fallen powers of this world turned against those whom the Holy Child loves. Unable to harm the Body of His human nature any longer, the world strikes at His Body, the Church.
Therefore, when the Church remembers its martyrs, like Saint Stephen, it is not merely out of a concern that the faithful become conversant in the details of Church history. Instead it is to keep us honest- not only about the past but also about the present. It has never been easy to be a Christian and being a Christian has always been counter-cultural. If lived authentically, it is lived in defiance against the fallen powers of the world.
This means that like our Saviour we have to be ready. We have to learn the strategy that He used to defeat the fallen powers of this world and how He claimed victory when it seemed that these fallen powers could not be defeated. We must learn His strategy- enacted in the witness of Saint Stephen and all the Church’s martyrs, past and present- lest in our opposition to the powers of this world, we become just like them. (Fr Steve Grunow)
Grant, Lord we pray,
that we may imitate what we worship,
and so learn to love even our enemies,
for we celebrate the heavenly birthday
of Saint Stephen, who knew how to pray for his persecutors.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Quote/s of the Day – 26 December – The Memorial of St Stephen the First Martyr and the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
“The deep bond which links Christ to His first martyr Stephen, is divine Charity – the very Love which impelled the Son of God to empty Himself and make Himself obedient unto death on a Cross …It is always necessary to notice this distinctive feature of Christian martyrdom, it is exclusively an act of love for God and for man, including persecutors.”
Pope Benedict XVI – 26 December 2007
” …Like his Master, St Stephen died forgiving his persecutors and thus makes us realise that the entry into the world of the Son of God gives rise to a new civilisation, the civilisation of love that does not yield to evil and violence and pulls down the barriers between men and women, making them brothers and sisters in the great family of God’s children.”
One Minute Reflection – 26 December – The Memorial of St Stephen the First Martyr and the Second Day in the Octave of Christmas
“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you to say will be given to you in that hour; for it not you who speak, but the Spirit of your father speaking through you.” …Matthew 10:19-20
REFLECTION – “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.”…from a sermon by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (460-533)
PRAYER – O God, the teacher and ruler of all that minister unto Thee, who did adorn the first beginnings of thy Church both with the ministrations of Thy blessed Deacon Stephen and with the precious blood of his martyrdom: grant, we beseech Thee, that we, in the hour of our departure, obtaining Thy pardon, may be followers of his example and assisted by his prayers. Amen. – Milanese Sacramentary
Saint of the Day – St Stephen The First Martyr – 26 December – Deacon, Preacher (c 05-c 34) the name “Stephen” – Stéphanos, meaning “wreath, crown” and by extension “reward, honour”, often given as a title rather than as a name. Patronages – • against headaches• brick layers• casket makers, coffin makers• deacons•altar servers • horses• masons, stone masons• Metz, France, diocese of• Owensboro, Kentucky, diocese of• Toulouse, France, rchdiocese of• 92 cities. Attributes – stones, dalmatic, censer, miniature church, Gospel Book, martyr’s palm frond.
St Stephen was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement against him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later himself become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle.
The only primary source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen is mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected to participate as a deacon in the early Church by the eleven – before the twelfth was elected.
“Good King Wenceslaus went out, on the Feast of Stephen”. This is the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas, when we commemorate the first disciple to die for Jesus.
In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke praises St Stephen as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who “did great wonders and signs among the people” during the earliest days of the Church. Luke’s history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen’s death – witnessed by St Paul before his conversion – at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus during the Lord’s ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God’s kingdom while travelling with almost no possessions. This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church, in which St Luke says believers “had all things in common” and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.
Stephen’s reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him, along with six other men, to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose. Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ, the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons and set them to work helping the widows.
As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message, some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities, charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions. Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He described Israel’s resistance to God’s grace in the past and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit” and rejecting the Messiah.
Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory. “Look,” he told the court, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death. “While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’ records St. Luke in Acts 7. “Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Celebrating the CHRISTMAS SEASON 26 December: The FEAST of ST STEPHEN
“Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.” Daily Meditation: The gates of heaven opened for Stephen, the first of the martyrs; in heaven, he wears the crown of victory. Entrance Antiphon
We remember the first martyr today to emphasize the invitation we have
as followers of Jesus to witness to his presence in our world, even when
it is unpopular, counter-cultural, or may even cost us our lives.
May we ask for the grace today to pray for our enemies and to
surrender even our lives in sharing this Good News with others.
God of all great love,
you know how full of courage Stephen was
and how full of fears I am.
Help me to have the strength to be a witness for my faith,
standing up for those who are weaker,
speaking out for what I believe
and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Lord, give me a share in your compassion and understanding
that I might pray for those who oppose me,
those who ridicule me,
and those who dismiss me.
May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
Stephen died as Jesus did: falsely accused, brought to unjust condemnation because he spoke the truth fearlessly. He died with his eyes trustfully fixed on God and with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips. A “happy” death is one that finds us in the same spirit, whether our dying is as quiet as Joseph’s or as violent as Stephen’s: dying with courage, total trust and forgiving love.
St Stephen Pray for us!
Image below – The Stoning of St Stephen by Friedrich Christoph Steinhammer around 1620
“Above all, St Stephen speaks to us of Christ, of the Crucified and Risen Christ as the centre of history and our life. We can understand that the Cross remains forever the centre of the Church’s life and also of our life. In the history of the Church, there will always be passion and persecution. And it is persecution itself which, according to Tertullian’s famous words, becomes “the seed of Christians”, the source of mission for Christians to come.”
~~~~ Pope Benedict XVI – General Audience delivered by Pope Benedict XVI in January 2007
Image “The Stoning of St Stephen by Adam Elsheimer 1604
God is love and he who lives in love lives in God and God in him…..1 Jn 4:16
REFLECTION – Love is the source of all good things. It is an impregnable defense and the way that leads to heaven. Those who walk in love can neither go astray nor be afraid. Love guides and protects them and brings them safely to their journey’s end……….St Fulgentius
PRAYER – Loving Father, pour forth Your love into my heart and help me always to act in accord with it. Let me be ruled by Your love in all things so that I may experience it completely with You in Heaven. St Stephen you are an example of total love, pray for us all! Amen.
Saint of the Day – 26 December – St Stephen the ProtoMartyr/Deacon/Preacher (1st cent died c34) – Patron of against headaches, brick layers, casket makers, coffin makers, deacons, horses, masons, stone masons, Metz, France, diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, diocese of Toulouse, France, archdiocese of,• 92 cities
One of the first deacons of the Church was a man named Stephen, a man filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. Besides his job of overseeing the distribution of the poor, he also preached. A group of Jewish Hellenists strongly resented Stephen’s preaching of salvation through Jesus. The situation became so tense that they found witnesses to falsely testify that Stephen had committed blasphemy.
Stephen was arrested and brought to the court. The odds were against him and Jesus said, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you to say will be given to you in that hour; for it not you who speak but the Spirit of your father speaking through you (Mathew 10:19–20). Stephen knew he would be helped by the Holy Spirit, and he wasn’t afraid.
When Stephen testified in court, he made two major points. First he believed that God could be found everywhere, not just in a single place like temple or a single person like Abraham. Second he demonstrated how from the beginning, the Israelites had consistently rejected God’s messengers, prophet’s and chosen servants. And now they rejected and killed God’s Son who had been sent to them. In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. “[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors” (Acts 7:51b).
His speech brought anger from the crowd. “But [Stephen], 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….’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him…. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. Lord, do not hold this sin against them’” (Acts 7:55-56, 58a, 59, 60b).
Stoning of Saint Stephen, altarpiece of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, by Jacopo & Domenico Tintoretto
St. Stephen – Domenico Ghirlandaio
Jean Fouquet Etienne Chevalier with St Stephen (detail of Stephen)