St. Stephen the First Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen.
Commemorated December 27.
In the early days of the Church it was necessary for the Apostle to appoint certain people to assist them in caring for the widows and those in need. Those they selected were called deacons. Saint Stephen was among the first deacons ordained in the Church. The Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen was the eldest of the seven deacons is called archdeacon. He was also the first Christian martyr, suffering for Christ when he was about thirty, and because of this he is know as a protomartyr.
Saint Stephen was the first to shed his blood for the Gospel. Saint Stephan defeated the Jewish teachers in debate and they immediately accused him of speaking blasphemy against God and Moses. Brought before the Sanhedrin he gave a speech inspired by the Holy Spirit in which he denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets and for executing the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
While he was speaking, St Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God. The Jews covered their ears and dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. All the while Saint Stephen prayed for them. The Jews left the body of the holy Protomartyr Stephen to be eaten by beasts but he was secretly taken up by the Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, who buried Stephen on his estate.
They both believed in Christ, and later received holy Baptism. St Stephen is also commemorated on August 2 (Translation of his relics) and on September 15 (Uncovering of his relics in the year 415).
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