Station at St Stephen's on the Coelian Hill
Jesus had upbraided the Jews "for having killed and stoned the Prophets" (Gospel); Stephen in his turn, addressing his judges declared that in crucifying Christ they had shown themselves worthy of their fathers who put to death the messengers of God. The holy deacon then lifting his eyes to heaven said that he saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Gospel). What a splendid testimony to the Divinity of this Child whom we venerate in the crib.
On hearing these words, the Jews fulfilling once more the words of the Master (Gospel), "with one accord ran violently upon Stephen and stoned him," who, falling on his knees, commended his soul to Jesus (Epistle) and asked pardon for his executioners (Collect).
Stephen is the first of the witnesses of Christ, it is therefore only right that he should appear first in the glorious procession of saints who surround the cradle of the Saviour. It is a tendency noticeable in a Greek martyrology of the fourth century to connect the greatest of the New Testament saints with the feast of the Nativity. His name is inscribed in the Canon of the Mass (second list).
Following after the example of Stephen, may we "love by charity even those who wrong us" (Collect), and be ever ready to surrender our life for Christ.
Princes sat, and spoke against me: and the wicked persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God, for Thy servant was employed in Thy justifications.* Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. (Psalm 118:23,86, 23, 1 from the Introit of Mass)
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we revere, that we may learn to love even our enemies : for we celebrate the day of his birth to immortality, who could even plead on behalf of his persecutors with Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ.