Commemorated on December 27
The Holy Disciple
(from the Seventy) First-Martyr and ArchDeacon Stephen was the eldest among
the Seven Deacons, established by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is
called "archdeacon". He was the Christian First-Martyr, and he
suffered for Christ at about age 30. In the words of Asterias, he was "the
starting-point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the
foundation of righteous confession, in that Stephen was first to shed his blood
for the Gospel".
Being filled of the
Holy Spirit, Saint Stephen with daring persuasively preached the Christian
teaching and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in disputation. For this the
Jews maligned Saint Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God
and against Moses. Under such charges, Saint Stephen came before the Sanhedrin
and the high-priest. He spoke a fiery speech, in which he expounded the history
of the Jewish nation, and he boldly denounced the Jews for persecuting the
prophets and also the execution by them of the awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ.
During the time of his speaking, Saint Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened
and Jesus Christ in glory, standing at the right side of God. He exclaimed
loudly about this. Then the Jews, covering over their ears, rushed upon him,
dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his
murderers. Afar off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy
Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before
death Saint Stephen uttered: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, wherein O
Lord, impute this not to them in sin", – and then with joy he gave up his
pure soul to Christ. The body of the holy First-Martyr Stephen, left for
devouring by beasts, was secretly taken up by the illustrious Jewish teacher
Gamaliel and his son Habib, and given burial on his estate. And afterwards
these both believed in Christ and accepted holy Baptism.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.