My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our only True God and Our only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Saint Stephen's Martyrdom (Acts 7:54-60)
"When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, 'Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!' Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (future St. Paul). And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not charge them with this sin.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
THE 27TH DAY OF THE MONTH OF DECEMBER THE LIFE AND MARTYRDOM OF THE HOLY PROTOMARTYR STEPHEN (STEFANOS) THE ARCHDEACON
He was a kinsman of the Holy Apostle Paul and one of those Jews who lived in a Hellenic (Greek) milieu. Stephen was the first of the Seven Deacons whom the Holy Apostles ordained for the service of the poor in Jerusalem. This is why he is called the Archdeacon--the first, or chief, of them. By the power of his faith, Stephen worked many wonders among the people. The wicked Jews disputed with him, but were always confounded by his wisdom and the power of the Spirit who acted through him. Then the shameful Jews, adept at calumny and slander, stirred up the people and leaders against this innocent man. They slandered Stephen, saying that he had blasphemed against God and against Moses, and quickly found false witnesses who supported their assertion. Then Stephen stood before the people, and all saw his face "like the face of an angel": that is, his face was illumined by the Light of Grace as was the face of Moses when he talked with God. Stephen opened his mouth and spoke of God's manifold works and marvels, performed in the past for the People of Israel, and of the people's manifold transgressions and oppositions to God. He especially denounced them for the slaying of Christ the Lord, calling them "betrayers and murderers" (Acts 7:52). While they grounded their teeth, St. Stephen looked and saw the heavens open and the glory of God, and spoke to the Jews of what he saw: 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God' (7:56). Then the malicious men took him out of the city and stoned him to death. Among his murderers was his kinsman Saul, later the Apostle Paul. At that time, the Most Holy Mother of God was standing on a rock at a distance with Saint John the Theologian, and witnessed the martyrdom of this first Holy Martyr for the Truth of her Son and God, and she prayed for Saint Stephen. This happened exactly a year after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Holy Apostles. Saint Stephen's body was taken secretly and buried by Gamaliel (the teacher of the Law mentioned in Acts 5:34 and 22:3) in his own ground. He was a Jewish prince and a secret Christian. Thus this First of Christ's Holy Martyrs made a glorious end and entered the Kingdom of Christ our God.
Apolytikion of the First Holy Martyr Stefanos. Fourth Mode
For the struggles you endured for Christ God, a royal diadem crowns your head, O First Champion of Martyrs. For you refuted the folly of the Jews and beheld your Savior on the right of the Father. Ever beseech Him, therefore, for our souls.
Kontakion Hymn. Third Mode
Yesterday the Master arrived in the flesh, today the servant departs from the flesh. Yesterday He Who reigns was born. Today the servant dies for Him by stoning, the Protomartyr, the divine Stephen.
(Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape In Our Incarnate Lord,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God