Saint Stephen

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It seems odd that the first feast day celebrated the day after Christmas would be for the first martyr Saint Stephen. With Christmas being one of the most joyous and celebrated solemnities of the church, Why would the Church start the octave of that festivity in remembrance of the first person stoned to death for Christianity? Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Church and was one of seven selected by the Apostles.He was a wise and eloquent speaker who converted many to the faith. Unfortunately his proclamations about Jesus angered many Jews, one who was the future Saint Paul. Their outrage over his preaching led to his stoning. During that stoning the Saint asked that Jesus receive his spirit and asked forgiveness for those that took part in the stoning. While the account of Stephen’s life and death are certainly inspirational, death by stoning is hardly a joyous and festive event. Its tone is quite the opposite of Christmas day. Why pick the day after Christmas to commemorate this saint?

One way to look at the relationship is to look at what Christmas celebrates and what Saint Stephen did. Christmas celebrates the Nativity of Jesus or the birth of the Christ. It is the celebration of Christ entering the world. Was not one of Saint Stephen’s missions in life to bring Jesus to the world through his preaching and ministry? Just as during the Nativity narratives the holy family had many doors closed on them, Saint Stephens too was shut out by many. In order for him to bring Christ to the world he had to persevere to find a receptive soul willing to accept Jesus. Just as it was difficult to find a place to bring the word made flesh into this world, delivering the message of Jesus,the Son of God, to the people faced real challenges. Delivering that word to an audience through Saint Stephen is its own Nativity of sorts: if Stephen was the first to die for Christ, wasn’t he also one of  the first to be born in Christ?

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