Pentecost, Christians in Jerusalem were a close-knit community.
Many sold their property
and gave the proceeds to the Church so that
all could be distributed according to everyone's needs. The Christians
went to the Temple to pray but they began to partake of the Lord’s
Mystical Supper in their own homes.
God worked many miracles through these early Christians. Sick people
would gather at the Temple so the Apostles might touch them on
their way to prayer. The church grew very rapidly so that they
had to appoint
seven deacons to distribute the goods to the needy widows. Stephen
was one of these.
Stephen was full of faith and the Holy Spirit. According to Acts
6:13 he was accused of speaking against the temple and the law
of Moses. Stephen had discovered the inadequacy of a mere formalism
and ceremonialism of the temple worship from the teaching of Christ
who, through His words to the Samaritan woman, made him aware
that the true worship of God is not confined to the Temple.
open for Gentile evangelism so he went and preached in the Hellenistic
Synagogues. From Luke’s reporting in Acts, we know that
there were many who disputed Stephen. They could not beat Stephen
and so they left to secretly influence Jewish leaders by falsely
accusing Stephen. They stirred up the elders and the scribes
Stephen’s views. They said he spoke against Moses making
Stephen a blasphemer of God. They accused him of being a radical,
revolutionary statements against the Temple and the Law. These
were similar charges made against Christ. To many Jews, Christianity
to overthrow their religion as well as Jewish nationalism.
The members of the Sanhedrin saw Stephen’s face as if it
were the “face of an angel.” His face shone from divine
grace.They allowed Stephen to answer the false accusations in
front of this
council. For Stephen, the new religion was only the divinely
ordered development of the old. He saw the real blasphemers as
Jews who rejected the revelation and killed Christ.
While there, Stephen had a vision sent from Heaven where he saw
the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right side of God and
I see the heavens having been opened and the Son of Man standing
on the right of God.” This vision of Jesus standing implied
that Jesus was fighting for him from the heavens. This caused
to break up and forgo the formality of pronouncing a sentence.
The the council rushed on him casting him outside of the city
and they began
to stone him. Based on what they had charged him with, the law
of that time would have only called for forty lashings, not death
by stoning. Further, the Romans
had not granted the council the power of capital punishment.
When Stephen was led to the place of his execution, the Mother
of God followed at a distance. She stood on a nearby hill with
John the Theologian. The witnesses laid down their clothes at
the feet of a young man, named Saul who would later become Paul.
not only consented to Stephen’s death, but he failed to show
any pity for one of his own blood who was facing death.
Witnessing this martyric end, the Theotokos fervently prayed
to the Lord to strengthen His Martyr and to receive his soul.
was sustaining the rain of stones beating on his body, he knelt
down and with a loud voice cried, “Lord, do not make this sin stand
against them.” After uttering these words he fell asleep
The death of Stephen was a double loss for he was held by all
as one who was most gracious and amiable. His remains were left
the Jews for the dogs to eat. However God’s providence
prevailed and at night, two days later, as the martyr's body
lay in an open
place, the Jewish teacher of Saul, Gamaliel who was a secret
follower of Christ, came and took Stephen’s relics to Caphargamala
and buried the relics with his own hand in a cave. Later in 415
relics were discovered by the Priest Lucian, after receiving
a vision. This is commemorated on September 15th. The relics
to Jerusalem where they were laid in a church built in honor
of Athenais-Evdokia, augusta and wife of Theodosios II. Later
relics were taken to
Constantinople which is celebrated on the 2nd of August. We celebrate
Saint Stephen on December 27th.