Saint Stephen


Saint Stephen (Greek Στέφανος, or in Hebrew סטפנוס הקדוש) was born around the year 5 AD and is the first proto-martyr of the Christian faith. In the Acts of the Apostles he is listed as one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles. In the Orthodox faith, he was the eldest of these deacons and therefore carries the title "Archdeacon". It is believed that his name Stephanos in Greek signifies that he was a Hellenistic Jew.


In Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6, we can read the following description of Saint Stephen:


5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.
6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

For the whole of Chapter 7, Saint Stephen presents his view of the history of Israel to the Sanhedrin. He appeals to the Jewish scriptures to prove that the law of Moses had been fulfilled by Jesus and denounces his listeners as stiff necked people resisting the Holy Spirit:


51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.
52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers.
53 You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

The crowd explodes into anger at the end of speech, but suddenly Saint Stephen looks up shouting:


56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

The crowd grabbed Saint Stephen and dragged him out into the street, throwing stones at him. They laid their coats down at the feet of "Saul" (Who would later become Saint Paul). Saul approved of the killing of Saint Stephen and as the stones rained down upon him, Saint Stephen prayed to Christ for both his spirit and for forgiveness of the attackers:


59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.


In 415 AD, Lucian the priest had a dream that Saint Stephen's remains were at Beit Jimal - the relics found were taken in procession to the Church of Hagia Sion on December 26, 415 AD. They were moved in 439 to a church north of the Damascus Gate but this church was destroyed in the 12th century. Pope Pelagius II then translated the relics to Rome when he built the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, interring them along side Saint Lawrence. In the Golden Legend, the relics of Saint Lawrence miraculously moved to one side for room to be made for Saint Stephen.


Saint Augustine wrote in The City of God that many miracles happened in Africa when the relics were brought through the country side.




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