Saint Stephen is the first deacons of the church, being blessed with six others to dispense food and supplies to those in need as the Apostles had other pressing duties. He is also the first Christian martyr, a man who was stoned to death for proclaiming Christ to the religious leaders of his day. But, beyond his death being a brave sacrifice and evidence of his deep love for Christ, there are other aspects to his story that should be admired.
During his martyrdom there is a revelation! Looking to heaven, Saint Stephen sees the very glory of God. And, in that glory, he also sees the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) standing on the right hand of God. This is a profound moment. The promise of Christ being seen firsthand.
But, the detail that is sometimes lost amid this glory is that he also forgives his persecutors. Without bitterness darkening his last moments, he echos Christ in his own words, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”. In doing this, he clears the slate for the next major event in the life of the church—the calling of an even greater saint.
Among the people present at Saint Stephen’s stoning was a man named Saul. He supported the stoning of his relation and is guilty of that wrong. But, being present, he is also covered in the saint’s prayer of forgiveness. And, only a year or two later Saul has his name changed when he becomes the great Saint Paul the Apostle.
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This icon of Stephen the Protomartyr is in the Conestoga style and created primarily out of that region’s local colours and materials. The original icon was commissioned by the Chapel of King’s College, in Nova Scotia, Canada.