Feast of Saint Stephen, first Martyr
Acts 6:8–10; 7:54–59
I’ve always thought it a bit jarring, the very day after Christmas, to celebrate Saint Stephen, the first martyr. At first glance the shift from the beloved accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels to the dramatic account of Stephen’s death in the Acts of the Apostles can seem a startling jump. We exchange the adoring choirs of angels and the shepherds and their sheep for jeering crowds with stones in their hands. And yet on Saint Stephen’s day, the day when we recall the martyr who laid down his life in the footsteps of Christ, we can call to mind the great truth that the Christ Child came into the world to lay down his life for our sins.
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill my heart with a share of Stephen’s courage. May I be made ready to give everything for my faith, even to lay down my life. Amen.
Research depictions of Saint Stephen’s death today, online or in a collection of religious art. Take notice that despite Stephen’s suffering, artists often depict him with a strong sense of peace.