Monday, December 26, 2011

S. Stephen, the Protomartyr

 December 26th in the Western Church and December 27th in the East are appointed as the feast days of S. Stephen, the Protomartyr.

S. Luke in his Acts of the Apostles, tells us that Stephen was “a man, full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” One of the seven men selected by the disciples in Jerusalem and ordained by the Apostles as deacons, charged with distributing alms to the poor and administering other good works of the Church. The English word "deacon" being a translation from the Greek, diakonos (διάκονος), meaning "servant", "waiting-man," "minister" or "messenger."

S. Luke relates how Stephen is falsely accused of blasphemy and brought to stand trial before the Sanhedrin. Stephen defends himself mightily, during his trial experiencing a theophany.

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him.
Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 7:55-60

The first Martyr for the Christian Faith, i.e. the Protomartyr.


A Relic, the right arm, of the Saint, venerated at The Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, in Sergiyev Posad, Russia. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

This evening we celebrate the incarnation of God as man. The Eternal, Unknowable, Ineffable Creator of all comes to us as a tiny child. Not in some philosophical construct or as one of the many timeless myths with which God prepared the human heart to help it accept and understand this great mystery. But, as a real child, born of a real young woman, in a real place and at a real time. Born fully man but no less fully God.  Lowering himself to our state so that he might bring us unto himself. So that we might be "partakers of the Divine Nature", 2 Peter 1:4. Or as St. Athanasius wrote, "God has become man, so that we might become gods."

Of course Pascha/Easter is the ultimate Christian Feast as Christ, the blameless Lamb, is sacrificed for us. Taking upon Himself the suffering of the world, He triumphs over death, "trampling down death by death" and breaks open the gates of Hell. All of that is however a Mystery for another day. We need only remember that the road to Golgotha begins today in a cave in the tiny Judean town of Bethlehem. 

The Kontakion of the Forefeast;
Today the Virgin comes to give birth ineffably to the pre-eternal Word in the cave.
Dance, O world! And having heard this, with the angels and shepherds glorify the pre-eternal God, Who is to appear as a little babe.
The Kontakion in the Eastern Liturgy is roughly equivalent to the Collect in the Western Rite.