Icon of Saint Stephen
Byzantine icon of Saint Stephen

Stephen was one of the first deacons of the Christian Church and is considered its first martyr. His was a very violent death. He was falsely accused of blasphemy against the Law of Moses at a time when Jewish law permitted the death by stoning for blasphemy. This passage in Acts of the Apostles reads
“… Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”

“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

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