I feel better after second breakfast! Getting up early to serve Mass at Carmel was good tho' I hadn't had much sleep; Mass is always a blessing, especially with the fine sermon I heard and the way Fr says Mass with solemnity; and having said Matins, Lauds and Prime I've broken the back of today's Office; so having come back from church I had a snack.
I took the name of St Stephen the Protomartyr at my confirmation, and am glad to keep his feast. The sermon in his honour by St Fulgentius of Ruspe (another favourite saint) is excellent, and extracts appear in both the traditional Breviary and the modern Office; I read it over again at (first) breakfast, early in the morning before leaving for Mass.
The Church in her liturgies loves to praise and meditate on St Stephen; his twin collects (one for today, one for his former Octave Day, on the 2nd of January) are profitable:
Da nobis, quæsumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalicia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. R/. Amen.(Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we worship: that we may learn to love even our enemies: for we celebrate his [heavenly] birthday, who thought to pray even for his persecutors to Our Lord Jesus CHrist Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. R/. Amen.)Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui primitias Martyrum in beati Levitæ Stephani sanguine dedicasti: tribue, quæsumus; ut pro nobis intercessor exsistat, qui pro suis etiam persecutoribus exoravit Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. R/. Amen.(Almighty everlasting God, Who hast consecrated the firstfruits of Thy Martyrs in the blood of blessed Stephen the Deacon; grant, we beseech Thee, that he may pray for us, even as he also prayed for his persecutors, to our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. R/. Amen.)
Also, there is a excellent medieval sequence in his honour by Adam of St Victor, turned into a hymn (which omits all the last part, marked * below) much later:
Heri mundus exsultavitet exsultans celebravitChristi natalitia;heri chorus angelorumprosecutus est cælorumregem cum lætitia.Protomartyr et levita,clarus fide, clarus vita,clarus et miraculis,sub hac luce triumphavitet triumphans insultavitStephanus incredulis.Fremunt ergo tamquam feræ,quia victi defecere,lucis adversarii;falsos testes statuuntet linguas exacuuntviperarum filii.Agonista, nulli cede,certa certus de mercede,persevera, Stephane!insta falsis testibus,confuta sermonibussynagogam Satanæ!Testis tuus est in cælis,testis verax et fidelis,testis innocentiæ;nomen habes coronati,te tormenta decet patipro corona gloriæ.Pro corona non marcentiperfer brevis vim tormenti,te manet victoria;tibi fiet mors natalis,tibi pœna terminalisdat vitæ primordia.Plenus Sancto Spiritupenetrat intuituStephanus cælestia;videns Dei gloriamcrescit ad victoriam,suspirat ad præmia.En, a dextris Dei stantemJesum, pro te dimicantem,Stephane, considera;tibi cælos reserari,tibi Christum revelari,clama voce libera.Se commendat Salvatori,pro quo dulce ducit morisub ipsis lapidibus,Saulus servat omniumvestes lapidantiumlapidans in omnibus.Ne peccatum statuatur,his, a quibus lapidatur,genu ponit et precaturcondolens insaniæ;in Christo sic obdormivit,qui Christo sic obœdivitet cum Christo semper vivit,martyrum primitiæ.* Quod sex suscitaveritmortuos in Africa,Augustinus asserit,fama refert publica.Hujus Dei gratiarevelato corporemundo datur pluviasiccitatis tempore.Solo fugat hic odoremorbos et dæmonia,laude dignus et honorejugique memoria.Martyr, cujus est jucundumnomen in Ecclesia,languescentem fove mundumcælesti fragrantia.
(* The last part of the Sequence refers to the miracles worked by his relics in North Africa as St Augustine reports them, and to the finding of his body near Jerusalem in 415; the feast of their finding was formerly kept on the 3rd of August.)
In the Mozarabic Rite his Mass has as first reading the account of Naboth's vineyard, and how that just and innocent man was stoned (III Kings xxi, 1-29).
The Dominican Breviary had fine special antiphons (interpreting their respective psalms in the light of his history) for his Matins, and for the Magnificat at 1st and 2nd Vespers, which I append, together with the 9th responsory, not in the Roman books:
In primis Vesperis ad Mem.Aña. Tu principium tenes in choro Martyrum, similis Angelo, qui pro te lapidantibus Deum deprecatus es: beate Stephane, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum.Ad Matutinum.Aña j. Beatus Stephanus jugi legis Dei meditatione roboratus, tanquam lignum fructiferum secus salutarium aquarum plantatum decursus, fructum martyrii in tempore suo dedit primus. (Cf. Ps 1:1a, 2b, 3)Aña ij. Constitutus a Deo prædicator præceptorum ejus, in timore sancto illi servire studuit: officioque fideliter peracto, in montem sanctum ejus ascendere dignus fuit. (Cf. Ps 2:6, 11)Aña iij. In tribulatione lapidum se prementium positus, millia populi se circumdantis non timuit: quia susceptorem suum Jesum, ut eum salvum faceret, exurgere in cœlo vidit. (Cf. Ps 3:6)Aña iv. Lumine vultus tui, Domine, insignitus Protomartyr Stephanus sacrificium justitiæ seipsum tibi sacrificavit ideoque in lætitia cordis in pace obdormiens requiescit. (Cf. Ps 4:7a, 6a, 7b, 9)Aña v. Benedictionis tuæ, Domine, munere justificatus et scuto tuæ protectionis in passione munitus nominis sui coronam Stephanus a te percipere meruit. (Cf. Ps 5:14, 15)Aña vj. O quam admirabile est nomen tuum, Domine Deus noster, pro quo beatus Stephanus passus gloria et honore a te est coronatus et super cœlos dono tuæ magnificentiæ exaltatus. (Cf. Ps 8:1, 2, 6)Aña vij. In Domino Deo suo confisus fortis athleta Stephanus lapidum fortiter sustinuit utus et idcirco ad montem virtutum transmigravit victoriosus. (Cf. Ps 10:1)Aña viij. Sine macula beatus Stephanus ingressus est, Domine, in tabernaculum tuum et quia operatus est justitiam requiescit in monte sancto tuo. (Cf. Ps 14:1, 2)Aña ix. Domine, virtus et lætitia rectorum, quoniam prævenisti dilectum tibi Stephanum dono gratuite benedictionis te primum secutus est morte gloriose passionis unde cum corona martyrum dedisti ei vitam in sæculum sæculi. (Cf. Ps 20:1a, 3, 4, 6)R/. ix. Sancte Dei pretiose Protomartyr Stephane, qui virtute charitatis circumfultus undique, Dominum pro inimico exorasti populo: * Funde preces ✝ Pro devoto tibi nunc collegio. V/. Ut tuo propitiatus interventu, Dominus nos purgatos a peccatis jungat cœli civibus. * Funde preces. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. ✝ Pro devoto tibi nunc collegio.In secundis Vesperis.Magn. Aña. O quam gloriosus est beatus Stephanus Martyr, et Levita, qui ante Apostolos regna cœlestia possidere meruit et ad Patris dexteram Filium videre!
Once upon a time, St Stephen's day was kept as the feast of deacons. I extend a special feastday greeting and congratulations to one of the world's newest deacons, a friend of mine, Rev. Mannes Tellis, O.P., just ordained on the 22nd of December.
St Stephen's day was also kept as the feast of All Martyrs. Likewise, St John the Evangelist's day – tomorrow – was regarded in medieval days as the feast of priests.
Nowadays, many keep Childermas (the feast of the Holy Innocents, two days hence) as a day to commemorate victims of abortion. While I do not think they can properly be regarded as martyrs, it is certainly right to pray and work for an end to this wicked crime (demographic suicide, in the decadent, corrupted West), while always recalling, as Paul VI predicted, that the introduction of unnatural birth prevention, far from curtailing such horrors, has lead to a great increase in women being forced into abortion, by irresponsible and callous men, and that such women deserve prayers and support much more than condemnation – for too often they themselves most loathe themselves for what they were forced into, and suffer terribly.