Saint StephenDeacon and Martyr
GRANT, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee. our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen. Order of Centurions
Acts vii. 52 & St. Matthew xxiii. 34.
Behold, I see the heavens opened,
and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God
Acts vii. 55STEPHEN, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Matthew xxiii. 34BEHOLD, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Scripture from 1928 Book of Common Prayer
Other Homilies: Chrysostom on Acts vi. 8ff
"When they heard these things, they were cut to "the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
See, once more, the wrong-doers in trouble. Just as the Jews are perplexed, saying," What are we to do with these men?" so these also are "cut to the heart." And yet it was he that had good right to be incensed, who, having done no wrong, was treated like a criminal, and was spitefully calumniated. But the calumniators had the worst of it in the end. So true is that saying, which I am ever repeating, "Ill to do, is ill to fare." And yet he (in his charges against them) resorted to no calumny, but proved (what he said). So sure are we, when we are shamefully borne down in a matter wherein we have a clear conscience, to be none the worse for it.--"If they desired," say you, "to kill him, how was it that they did not take occasion, out of what he said, that they might kill him?" They would fain have a fair-seeming plea to put upon their outrage. "Well then, was not the insulting them a fair plea?" It was not his doing, if they were insulted: it was the Prophet's accusation of them. And besides, they did not wish it to look as if they killed him because of what he had said against them --just as they acted in the case of Christ; no, but for impiety: now this word of his was the expression of piety. Wherefore, as they attempted, besides killing him, to hurt his reputation also, "they were cut to the heart." For they were afraid lest he should on the contrary become an object of even greater reverence. Therefore, just what they did in Christ's case, the same they do here also. For as He said, "Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God" , and they, calling it blasphemy, "ran upon Him;" just so was it here. There, they "rent their garments;" here, they "stopped their ears. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him." And yet, if he lied, they ought to have thought him beside himself, and to have let him go.--But he wished to bring them over, "and said, Behold," etc., for, since he had spoken of Christ's death, and had said nothing of His resurrection, he would fain add this doctrine also. "Standing at the right hand of God." And in this manner He appeared to him: that, were it but so, the Jews might receive Him: for since the (idea of His) sitting (at the right hand of God) was offensive to them, for the present he brings forward only what relates to His Resurrection. This is the reason also why his face was glorified. For God, being merciful, desired to make their machinations the means of recalling them unto Himself. And see, how many signs are wrought! "And cast him out of the city, and stoned him." Here again, "without the city," and even in death, Confession and Preaching. "And the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." This is meant to show them that he is not perishing, and to teach them. "And he knelt down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." To clear himself, and show that neither were his former words prompted by passion, he says, "Lord" "lay not this sin to their charge": wishing also even in this way to win them over. For to show that he forgave their wrath and rage in murdering him, and that his own soul was free from all passion, was the way to make his saying to be favorably received.