Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Therefore, it’s my brother, Stephen’s feast day. It’s also my sister’s birthday and the anniversary of my baptism. All in all, one of my favorite days of the year.
I just love this reflection on Stephen from today’s Office. I also love the account of the martyrdom of Stephen from Acts.
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (467-532), Bishop in North Africa
Sermon 3, 1-3, 5-6 (Office of Readings)
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity.
And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen.