Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen's Christ-like Holiness

Happy Feast of St. Stephen! Since Stephen is one of my favorite saints I couldn't let the day go by without posting something in his honor. In fact, we named our second son after him: Matthew Stephen. This is from my earlier series of posts (Part 1Part 2, Part 3) on the book of Acts. (The picture to the right was taken at the traditional site of Stephen's tomb).

One of the most striking similarities between the narrative of Luke and the story of Acts is found in the account of what happens to one of the seven deacons appointed by the apostles, St. Stephen. Jesus had been arrested, made to stand trial, and was questioned by the high priest. He was accused by false witnesses who claimed that he had said he would destroy the temple. In then end, Jesus was of course executed. All of this also occurs to Stephen who is arrested, made to stand before the council, accused by false witnesses of claiming Jesus would destroy the temple, questioned by the high priest, and executed.

The climactic moment of Jesus’ trial comes as Jesus tells the high priest he will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven and reveals his identity as the Son of God (Luke 22:69–70). After this he is condemned to death (Luke 22:71). Likewise, Stephen’s trial climaxes with his statement: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). After this, he is killed.

Moreover, Stephen is even described like Jesus in death. Just before dying Jesus prays, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). Stephen likewise prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Furthermore, when Jesus is crucified he prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Similarly, Stephen prays for his accusers: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

In fact, here I have to mention St. Augustine’s line: “Had Stephen not prayed, the Church today would have no Paul” (Sermon on the Nativity of St. Stephen 6, 5.

1 comment:

"Aunt" Judy said...

Thank you for shedding the Christmas light on Acts! You bring it to life!