Tuesday, December 25, 2007

26 December: Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr

Now in those days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty" (Acts 6:1-3).

Among those chosen was Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Filled with grace and power, Stephen performed great wonders and signs among the people as he proclaimed the Word and confounded those who opposed the Way. Stephen was brought before the high priest and the council on false charges where he fearlessly preached Jesus as the fulfillment of God's covenant with Israel, as Messiah, and as the Son of Man crucified, resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of God. For this faithful witness, Stephen was cast out of the city and stoned, receiving the first crown of martyrdom.

Collect of Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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