The Stoning of Stephen
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60
In our Maronite Saints calendar we celebrate the feast of St Stephen, the first martyr on 27 December. We learn about St Stephen directly from the Gospel. We are told that St Stephen was chosen as one of the seven deacons by the disciples to assist with distributing food and looking after the widows and the poor. We also know that “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.” Acts 6:8-10
St Stephen was then arrested and was stoned to death. His martyrdom and commitment to his faith helped promote Christianity in the Early Church.
We also learn from his story, the importance of the Diaconate. Other deacons, including female deacons, (St Phoebe – Romans 16:1-2) are mentioned in the Gospel.
The female diaconate has already been renewed in some parts of the Orthodox Church and is presently the subject of a papal commission studying its history.
The disciples chose Deacons so that they could assist them in order that they may give their “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4.
The Diaconate remains an important Order in the Church. It assists the Bishop in doing important works seperate from priests and in order to serve the Church community. Today we pray for that papal commission studying the female diaconate and for all deacons presently serving in our Church.
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