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St. Stephen

St. Stephen was one of the seven deacons mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (6: 5-7) who was ordained by the Apostles themselves.

The Feast of St. Stephen is celebrated on December 27. The joy of our Lord's Nativity is joined with the gladness we feel at the triumph of the first martyr who, as the Church sings of him, "was the first to pay back to the Savior the death suffered by the Savior."

The Feast of St. Stephen has special reference to the Nativity, a con nection beautifully developed in the Kontakion: "Yesterday the Master came to us in life and today His servant departs from life; yesterday He Who is King was born as man, today His servant is stoned to death. Through Him, the beloved of God, Stephen, became the first martyr of all."

In the Icon of St. Stephen is vested in the deacon's sticharion. As the deacon who serves in the Church's worship, he carries the censer in his right hand. I n his left hand he holds a church, symbolic of that which in his office he has been called to serve.

Stephen was the first who willingly shed his blood for Christ, and hence is known as the "proto" or first martyr. The actual day of his death is un known, but since he was the first to sacrifice his life for Christ, his heavenly "birthday" is celebrated immediately after the earthly birth of Christ.

St. Gregory of Nyssa, in a sermon on St. Stephen, says: "Yesterday the Lord of the Universe rejoiced our soul; today His follower gladdens us. Christ, for the sake of men, assumed the form of human nature; while St. Stephen, for the sake of Christ, laid aside the corruptible body." We, too, praise Stephen who has given his life for Christ.

 

TROPARION — You fought the good fight, First Martyr of Christ, and Apostle. You exposed the perversion of the persecutors; for when you were killed by stones from the hands of wicked men, you received a crown from the Right Hand on High, and you cried out to God, saying: "O Lord, do not charge this sin against them."

 

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