Saint Stephen icon with handmade silk-screen printing on a polished gold background in various dimensions.
December 27 holiday
Saint of the Christian Church. He is called the “first martyr”, because he was the first to testify for Christ. His memory is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on December 27, the finding of his remains on September 15, and the retrieval on August 2. The Western Churches (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran) commemorate him on December 26.
Stephen was the first and most distinguished of the seven deacons, who had been elected and ordained by the apostles to help the poor, orphans and widows with common meals and by any other means. He was distinguished for his oratorical ability and his generally Christian activity. The Jews, seeing his activity and fearing his action, ordered him to stop preaching. (Acts of the Apostles, ch. V’, 1-8).
He ignored them and continued to preach the Word of God. Then, some intolerant Jews slandered him for blaspheming God, Solomon’s Temple and the prophet Moses. With this accusation he was arrested and dragged before the Jewish Congress to apologize and be tried. (Acts of the Apostles, chapter f, 9-15). Stephen courageously defended his faith and accused the Jews of being cruel to the prophets, whom they killed, as well as to all God’s people, while arguing for the divinity of Christ. (Acts of the Apostles, ch. VII, 1-53)
All Stephen managed to do was further enrage his accusers, who seized him from the Council chamber and led him out of Jerusalem, where they began stoning him. Stephanos calmly accepted the stoning with the words “Lord Jesus, receive the spirit of mind” and kneeling he prayed for his persecutors, saying: “Lord, do not impute this sin to them”. Immediately afterwards he gave up his spirit. The scene of the stoning was also watched by a young Pharisee named Saul, who guarded the clothes of the stoners and approved the execution of Stephen. (Acts of the Apostles, ch. g’, 54-60). He was the later Apostle Paul. According to tradition, the remains of the first martyr Stefanos were taken by the Emperor Constantine to Constantinople.