26th December – St Stephen, Protomartyr.

st-stephenToday’s feast is of the first martyr St Stephen. The word “martyr” means “witness” with regard to faithfulness to God, his will and his word. Christ of course is the supreme example of faithfulness to God’s will. All other martyrs mirror this faithfulness. The Opening/Concluding Prayer for today shows that a special mark of Stephen’s death was his witness to Jesus’ non-violent love of enemies: Give us grace, Lord, to practise what we worship. Teach us to love our enemies as we keep the feast of Saint Stephen,   who prayed even for the men who stoned him to death.

The following are the intercessions for today’s feast from Morning Prayer. They tell us about being faithful witnesses in our own life. One of the intercessions has an added footnote. Ponder them prayerfully.

Our Savior’s faithfulness is mirrored in the fidelity of his witnesses who shed their blood for the Word of God. Let us praise him in remembrance of them:
You redeemed us by your blood.

Your martyrs freely embraced death in bearing witness for the faith,
– give us the true freedom (1) of the Spirit, O Lord.
You redeemed us by your blood.

Your martyrs professed their faith by shedding their blood,
– give us a faith, O Lord, that is constant and pure.
You redeemed us by your blood.

Your martyrs followed in your footsteps by carrying the cross,
– help us to endure courageously the misfortunes of life.
You redeemed us by your blood.

Your martyrs washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb,
– help us to avoid the weaknesses of the flesh and worldly allurements.
You redeemed us by your blood.

(1) Christian freedom is not the capacity to do our own thing. Rather it is the capacity for doing that which is right and pleasing to God in a given situation. True freedom for a compass needle is thus the capacity to point North, not the capacity to point in some random direction based on its own whims.