Friday, December 26, 2008

St Stephen, The First Christian Martyr

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Stephen, aptly placed on the Church calendar the day after Christmas, since he was the very first Christian martyr who died a horrific death by stoning for his belief in Jesus Christ. St Stephen spoke with such wisdom and grace that he won many followers for Jesus. This enraged those who were trying to quell the Christians who were quickly becoming numerous. His sentence of death by stoning was considered necessary when he was falsely accused of blasphemy against God, Moses, the Temple and the Law. The Bible tells us that St. Stephen was strengthened by a vision of Heaven right before his death as he saw the Heavens open and said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56)

My boys were always fascinated by St. Stephen, a man who showed great courage to go to his death rather than renounce his faith. When you think about how horrific a death stoning was, you realize the extent of the bravery which St. Stephen exhibited. He showed great trust and perseverance as a model of Christian faith. According to a historian, death by stoning usually meant that they threw the person from an elevation with their hands bound. If the initial fall didn't kill them, then from above would be cast stones down upon them. The person being stoned would not be able to shield himself and would be completely defenseless. The rocks that were cast down were not tiny stones but rather more like boulders. It only took about three blows from those huge stones to cause death, a quick but very agonizing way to go to Heaven.

Even in his final moments, St Stephen begged God to forgive those who were responsible for killing him, emulating Jesus to the very end of his life. The Bible says that St. Stephen's face appeared like that of an angel, so serene was he in his last moments despite the circumstances.

The next time I feel unforgiving toward someone, I'm going to think of St. Stephen, a true model of Christian charity and forgiveness.

St Stephen, first martyr for the Christian faith, pray for us!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Moody said...

Wow, his story is really inspiring!