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Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen
  • Century: 1st Century
  • Patronage: Altar Servers, Deacons, Casket Makers, Headaches, Horses, Serbia
  • Feast Day: December 26th

St. Stephen is the first martyr of Christianity, and is venerated as a Saint.  Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek language, meaning “Crown”.  Traditionally Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom.  He is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs’ palm.  

History approximates Stephen’s story around 34, a year or so, after Jesus’ crucifixion.  According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early Church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as Deacon.  However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue, he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses, Acts 6:11, and speaking against the Temple and the Law.  Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin.  His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the Prophets who had spoken out against the sins of the nation, “Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murders”. 7:52.    

While on trial, he experienced a “theophany” in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God”, Acts 7:56.  The vision of Christ standing differs from other Scriptures which indicates that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, some think that Christ stood in honor of Stephen, whose martyrdom was near.  

He is condemned to death, and stoned by an infuriated mob.  Many churches are named in honor of St. Stephen, but there was no official “Tomb of St. Stephen” until the year 415.  When Christian pilgrims were traveling in large numbers to Jerusalem, a Priest name Lucian said he had learned by a vision that the tomb was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem. St. Gregory of Tours reported that the intercession of St. Stephen preserved an oratory dedicated to him at Metz, in present day France.  His relics were preserved when the oratory was left standing, after Huns burned the remainder of the city on Easter Eve, 451.  

Practical Take Away

St. Stephen was a deacon in the early Christian Church.  The apostles had need of helpers, so they ordained seven Deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.  The enemies of the Church of Jesus, did not like the success he was having at converting Jews to Christianity.  They laid a plot for him.  They could not answer his wise arguments, so they got men to lie about him saying that he had spoken sinfully against God.  St. Stephen faced his assembly without fear, and the Holy Bible says his face looked like the face of an Angel.  They dragged him outside of the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death.  The saint prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”!  Then he fell to his knees and begged of God to not punish his accusers for killing him.