I have the smallest room in my parent’s home and it is cluttered with many religious statues which I have accumulated over the years. Most of them have been passed on by my grandmother to me. Yet, near my window is this small icon of Saint Stephen which I obtained in Greece.
It may seem a bit awkward that immediately after the great solemnity of Christmas Day, we turn to Stephen, the first deacon and martyr (Acts 6). The contrary is true: this feast is very fitting! The martyrdom of Stephen is a reminder that what we celebrate at Christmas is more than just a fairytale headlined by consumerism, gifts, and good eating. It is an event in which all time is based – the event of God becoming a child and our daringness to die for such love.
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop, says it best in the Office of Readings: “And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name.”