Saint Stephen by Carlo Crivelli
|Deacon and Protomartyr|
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Lutheran Church, Anglican Communion|
|Feast||26 December (Western)
27 December (Eastern)
|Attributes||stoner, dalmatic, censer, miniature church, Gospel Book, martyr's palm. In Eastern Christianity he often wears an orarion|
|Patronage||Acoma Indian Pueblo; casket makers; Cetona, Italy; deacons; headaches; horses; Kessel, Belgium; masons; Owensboro, Kentucky; Passau, Germany; Serbia; Republic of Srpska; Prato, Italy |
Saint Stephen (Koine Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; sometimes spelled "Stephan"), the first martyr of Christianity, was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech fiercely denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement on him and was stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus (later renamed Paul), a Pharisee who would later convert to Christianity and become an apostle.
Stephen is venerated as a saint in the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Stephen's name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning "crown". Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyr's palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon's vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer.
Speech to Sanhedrin
In a long speech to the Sanhedrin comprising almost the whole of Acts Chapter 7, Stephen presents his view of the history of Israel. The God of glory, he says, appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia, thus establishing at the beginning of the speech one of its major themes, that God does not dwell only in one particular building (meaning the Temple). God was with Joseph, too, in Egypt. Stephen recounts the stories of the patriarchs in some depth, and goes into even more detail in the case of Moses. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush
The Stoning of Stephen
Thus castigated, the account is that the crowd could contain their anger no longer. However Stephen, seemingly now oblivious to them, looked up and cried "Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!"
Views of Stephen's speech
Of the numerous speeches in Acts of the Apostles, Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin is the longest. To the objection that it seems unlikely that such a long speech could be reproduced in the text of Acts exactly as it was delivered, some Biblical scholars have replied that Stephen's speech shows a distinctive personality behind it. It has often been observed that there are numerous divergences in Stephen's re-telling of the stories of Israelite history and the scriptures where these stories originated, for instance Stephen says that Jacob's tomb was in Shechem
Reputed Tomb of Stephen
Acts 8:2 says "Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him" but the location where he was buried is not specified. In 415 AD a priest named Lucian purportedly had a dream that revealed the location of Stephen's remains. The reputed relics of the martyr are said to be preserved in the Church of St Stephen, Jerusalem.
St. Stephen's Day
In Western Christianity, 26 December is called "St. Stephen's Day", the "Feast of Stephen" mentioned in the English Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas". It is a public holiday in many nations that were historically Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran including Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Poland, Italy, Germany, and Finland. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, the day is celebrated as "Boxing Day".
In the current norms for the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the feast is celebrated at the Eucharist, but, for the Liturgy of the Hours, is restricted to the Hours during the day, with Evening Prayer being reserved to the celebration of the Octave of Christmas.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, Saint Stephen's feast day is celebrated on December 27. This day is also called the "Third Day of the Nativity". In the Oriental Orthodox Churches (e.g. Syrian, Indian) the St.Stephen's Day is observed on January 8.
Many churches and other places commemorate Saint Stephen. Among the most notable are:
- Saint Étienne, France, and numerous other places named Saint Étienne in the French-speaking world
- Vienna, Austria – Stephansdom, the Cathedral of St. Stephen, founded 1147 and seat of Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna. Symbol of the city of Vienna and of Austria, has the tallest spire in Austria and is the country's most famous church
- Rome – San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
- Old city of Jerusalem – the "Lions' Gate" is also called St. Stephanus Gate, after the tradition that Stephen's stoning occurred here, though it probably occurred at Damascus Gate
- London – St Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster was originally built in the reign of Henry III of England; it became the first site of the debating chamber of the British House of Commons. Saint Stephen's Clock Tower was the original name for the tower that housed Big Ben until it was renamed Elizabeth Tower to commemorate the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
- St Stephen's House, Oxford – Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford and Anglican Theological College
- St Stephen's Church, Bristol – the first city church built outside the walls c. 1250, rebuilt c. 1430 - 1490.
- St. Stephen's Church, Kombuthurai, built by St. Francis Xavier in India in 1542.
- The Prayerbook Society of Canada
- The ELCA "Worship"
- Souvay, Charles. "Saint Stephen". Catholic Encyclopedia,1912. New Advent. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- David J. Williams,Acts (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series),Baker Books 1989,chapter 16, ISBN 978-0-8010-4805-0
- Kerr, David. "St. Stephen’s death shows importance of Scripture, Pope says", Catholic News Agency, 2 May 2012
- "Lives of Saints", John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
- David J. Williams,Acts (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series),Baker Books 1989,chapter 17, ISBN 978-0-8010-4805-0
- "Life of St. Stephen", St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
- Rex A. Koivisto (1987). "Stephen's Speech:A Theology of Errors?". Grace Theological College. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- Brandon, S. G. F. (1967). Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-684-31010-7.
- "St Stephen Church". goisrael. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Saint Stephen|
- "Saint Stephen, the First Martyr"
- "Apostle Stephen the Protomartyr"
- Benedict XVI, Reflection on the Life and Death of Saint Stephen