Collect and Readings for St Stephen’s Day – 2 Chronicles 24.20-22, Acts 7.51-end, Psalm 119:161-168, Galatians 2:16b-20, Matthew 10:17-22The Prayer for todayGracious Father, who gave the first martyr Stephen grace to pray for those who took up stones against him: grant that in all our sufferings for the truth we may learn to love even our enemies and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt, looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us, Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Who was St Stephen?
Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Christian Church. He was the first Christian martyr. Stephen is believed to have been a Greek Jew who converted to Christianity. When the number of disciples increased, there was much confusion over the distribution of alms and the serving of the poor. Stephen's trustworthy character singled him out, and he was chosen as one of the seven deacons who would perform this task.
He was an excellent and well trusted orator, and his preaching style was so effective that many Jews became worried about his success. They accused him of blasphemy and he was made to stand trial.
At the supreme Jewish law court, the Sanhedrin, Stephen recounted the many mercies that God had given the children of Israel, and the ungrateful way in which they had repaid Him. He accused them of murdering Jesus, whose coming he said, had been foretold by Moses. Not surprisingly, this angered the crowd, and he was dragged out onto the streets. He was then stoned to death according to the law at that time, an event witnessed by St Paul. It is believed he died around the year 34CE.
He is believed to have been initially buried in a grave to the north of Jerusalem, but this body was exhumed and moved to a new grave outside the Damascus Gate. This is where the stoning is believed to have taken place.
Stephen is the patron saint of deacons, headaches, (probably because of the way he died), horses, coffin makers, and masons. In pictures he is often represented carrying a pile of rocks or with rocks on his head.
St Stephen's Day is 26th of December and you may associate it with the carol ’Good King Wenceslas’.Some things to reflect on:
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev’d Fiona Robinson