The Feast of St Stephen

Reading for Vigils

 

Yesterday, my dear brothers and sisters, we celebrated the birth in time of our timeless King; today we celebrate the triumphant sufferings of a soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in a robe of flesh, came forth from a virginal womb and deigned to visit this earth; today a soldier, leaving the tabernacle of the body, departs as a conqueror for heaven.

Our King, though supreme amongst kings, came to us in lowly estate; nevertheless, he would not come empty-handed. He brought a great largesse for his soldiers, not only to enrich them but to strengthen them to fight without being overcome: he brought the gift of love that leads people to union with God. It was the same love, then, that brought Christ to earth and raised Stephen to heaven.

In earning the crown which his name signifies, Stephen had love for his armour and it won the victory for him. For love made him pray for his neighbours to win forgiveness for them.

Through love he resisted Saul’s cruel persecution and won his earthly persecutor for a heavenly companion. What he could not accomplish by argument, he accomplished by prayer; and love inspired both. With Stephen, Paul now rejoices in the light of Christ, with Stephen he rules. Stephen went before, wounded with stones that Paul threw; Paul followed after, aided by Stephen’s prayers.

Love, then, is the source of all blessings. It is our greatest protection and our road to heaven. Those who walk in love cannot go astray or be overwhelmed by fear. For love directs, probes, and guides.

Christ ahs set up a ladder of love, and every Christian can climb to heaven on it. Hold on to love, then, brothers and sisters; show it to one another; advance and ascend to heaven by it.

 

‘Love as a weapon of warfare’, from the sermons of St Fulgentius of Ruspe.

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