St. Stephen’s day – reflection

Today is the second day in the octave of Christmas. The Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was one of the seven deacons who helped the apostles; he was "filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit," and was "full of fortitude." The deacon Stephen, has always been the object of very special veneration by the faithful. The account in the Acts of the Apostles relating his arrest and the accusations brought against him emphasize the parallel with our Savior’s trial; he was stoned outside the city wall and died, like his Master praying for his executioners.

When on the day after the solemnity of Christmas we celebrate today’s feast, at first glance, to join the memory of the first martyr and the birth of the Redeemer might seem surprising because of the contrast between the peace and joy of Bethlehem and the tragedy of St. Stephen, stoned in Jerusalem during the first persecution against the nascent Church. In reality, this apparent opposition is surmounted if we analyze in greater depth the mystery of Christmas. The Child Jesus, lying in the cave, is the only-begotten Son of God who became man. He will save humanity by dying on the cross. Now we see Him in swaddling clothes in the manger; after His crucifixion, He will again be wrapped in bandages and placed in the sepulcher.

Martyrs death was not a reason for fear and sadness, but of spiritual enthusiasm, which always gave rise to new Christians. For believers, the day of death, and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything, but rather the "passage" to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth." Thus is understood the link that exists between the day of birth of Christ and the day of new birth of St. Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Because Christ was born, we are able to be born to a new life in God’s Kingdom.