St. Stephen, the Archdeacon and Protomartyr
The first day of the blessed
month of Tobah marks the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the archdeacon and the first
martyr (protomartyr). St. Luke testified about him in the Acts of the Apostles
saying, "Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among
the people." (Acts 6:8) The Jews envied him and seized him and brought him to
the Council. They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not
cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we
have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and
change the customs, which Moses delivered to us." (Acts 6:12-13) And all that
sat in the Council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an
angel. (Acts 6:13) Then the high priest said, "Are these things so?" St.
Stephen answered with convincing words and told them the history from Abraham
to Moses, and of Abraham getting out of Haran, and the birth and the
circumcision of Isaac, and Jacob and his sons and their selling of Joseph, and
how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. St. Stephen continued to tell them
all the events until the building of the temple. He concluded by saying, "You
stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy
Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers
not persecute and they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of
Whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law
by the direction of angels and have not kept it." (Acts 7:51-53)
When they heard these things
they were cut to their hearts, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But
he, being fill' of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, "Look! I see the heavens
opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
Then they cried out with a
loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran toward him with one accord; and they
cast him out of the city and stoned him.
They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and
saying, "Lord Jesus receive my Spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a
loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he said this, he
fell asleep. (Acts 7:51-60) Devout men carried Stephen to his burial and made
great lamentation over him.
His prayers be with us
and Glory be to Our God, forever. Amen.