The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. O come, let us worship. Alleluia
Domenico Piola (Italy, 1627–1703) Stoning of St Stephen (1650s) State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
Filled with grace, Stephen had been doing wonderful things among the people. Though these wonders are not named, it seems they must have had some connection with his humble service—that table service the first deacons were appointed for so the Twelve could preach the word of God. Some people were upset by these wonders and signs and engaged Stephen in debate. He did not back down, but witnessed powerfully to Jesus as the fulfilment of Moses, the Law, and the Temple.
Those who had been upset by his wonder-working were infuriated by this teaching which did not ﬁt into their understanding and expectations.
Stephen—totally given to a life of humble, loving service—manifested in word and deed the wonders of divine love incarnate in Jesus. His challenging message and his embodiment of it in his person were rejected. That rejection, however, did not quench the love of God, the Spirit of Christ within him. He spoke the truth courageously, even in the face of death, never departing from the way of love—love for Christ, and inclusive and forgiving love of his opponents. His last words were like those of Jesus on the cross, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, " and "Lord, do not hold this sin against them
"Ortus Summi: Conductus for the feast of St. Stephen" [13th century music from a manuscript in the Bibleoteca Laurenziana, Florence], in Thirty-five Conductus for Two and Three Voices, edited by Janet Knapp (Yale University, 1965); played by Ernst Stolz, recorder and tenor vielle (fiddle).
You are our eternal salvation,
May the Lord, who has called out of darkness into his marvellous light, bless us and fill us with peace. Amen.