My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!
THE HOLY PROTOMARTYR AND ARCHDEACON STEFANOS (STEPHEN)
The bloodthirsty hypocrites, preparing to stone Christ's good and faithful servant, removed their outer garments so that they could move more freely, and laid them at the feet of a young man names Saul (later known as Paul), a kinsman of the victim. Saul, it is written, "was consenting unto" Stephen's death (Acts, Ch. 8), being more infuriated with him than any of the others, on account of his fanatical devotion to the ancient Law. "He was very sorry," Saint Chrysostom tells us, "that he did not have innumerable hands with which to stone Stefanos (Stephen), but consoled himself with the thought that may false witnesses were found to kill the martyr, and that he was able to guard their clothing."
While the Saint was being murdered in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the valley of Jehoshaphat is situated between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Through it runs the torrent of Kedron, which has many rocks scattered on its banks), the Most Pure Virgin, with Saint John the Theologian and Apostle, was standing on a hill some distance away, praying fervently to her Son and Lord that He strengthen Saint Stefanos and enable him to endure, and that He receives the Archdeacon's soul into His hands. Oh, how sweet was the death of the holy Protomartyr (First-Martyr)! As the Lord Jesus watched from heaven, and His sweetest Mother and the beloved Disciple looked down from the heights, stones rained upon him. Bloody, weak, and dying, but still standing, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts, Ch. 7); then his thoughts turned to his slayers and "he fell prostrate." He prayed more fervently for them than he had for himself: his heart ached with compassion for the murderers, and he 'cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Thus the valiant struggler and Protomartyr finished his course, lying amid blood-stained rocks. His soul flew up through the heavens to reign forever with the King and Lord of Glory, Whom he had been deemed worthy to behold before his death.
The holy Archdeacon was ordained by the Apostles soon after Pentecost. He suffered on the twenty-seventh day of December during the year following Christ's Ascension. He was just over thirty years old and was a handsome man, but the beauty of his soul far surpassed that of his countenance.
Saint Stefanos (Stephen's) corpse was thrown out to become food for beasts and birds and lay a day and a night without burial. On the second night Gamaliel, the renowned teacher of the Jews of Jerusalem (who later, with his son Abib, believed in Christ), sent honorable and trustworthy men to remove the holy relics secretly. Shedding bitter tears, they reverently buried the holy remains on Gamaliel's property in the village called Kaphargamala, which was two miles from Jerusalem. And who would not have wept, asks Saint John Chrysostom, seeing the gentle lamb's body, battered by stones?
Many years later the pious Empress Evdokia, wife of Theodosius the Lesser, went to Jerusalem. At the place where the holy Protomartyr Stefanos was killed and his blood stained the ground, the Empress, wishing to honor Christ, built a magnificent church dedicated to the Saint. Unto our God be glory forever. Amen. (Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in Our Divine Redeemer,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God