26 December 2007

St. Stephen, Martyr

From the white of Christmas to the red of martyrdom, the paraments remind us that Christmas and its joy is celebrated in the very face of hatred, death, and destruction. As it was for our Lord, so it must be for His followers. He has made that clear. The Introit for this day calls out: "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame." The Collect of the day asks for the grace to "follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified in our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong." Here is the light that has come into the darkness: a love so strong that it cannot be overcome! A love that prays for those who wrong us, and that seeks their salvation. A saint alive in such a love is a saint that death cannot destroy, and so "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Epistle) Indeed "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (Alleluia Verse)

Praise for the first of martyrs,
Who saw You ready stand
To help in time of torment,
To plead at God's right hand.
Like You, our suff'ring Savior,
His enemies he blessed,
With "Lord, receive my spirit,"
His faith, by death, confessed.

Another Hymn for a Martyr\'s Day

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