This blog contains regular postings relating to the Traditional Latin Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It includes regular commentary on the saints days and the liturgical cycle, with brief background and extracts from the liturgy both in Latin and English. Much of the material has been extracted from the 'St Andrew's Daily Missal', Dom Gueranger's 'Liturgical Year', or similar sources.

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Monday 26 December 2016

26th December, St Stephen, First martyr

St Stephen, First Martyr

Station at St Stephen's on the Coelian Hill

The Church was still in her infancy when Stephen, renowned for his virtues, received from the Apostles the mission to organise the meals where the poor were fed in common. He worked such "great wonders and signs among the people " (Epistle) that the Jews from five different synagogues became alarmed and summoned him before the Sanhedrin (Introit).

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.

Sederunt principes, et adversum me loquebantur: et iniqui persecuti sunt me: adjuva me, Domine Deus meus, quia servus tuus exercebatur in tuis justificationibus. * Beati immaculati in via, qui ambulant in lege Domini.
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)

Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine, imitari quod colimus: ut discamus et inimicos diligere; quia ejus natalitia celebramus, qui novit etiam pro persecutoribus exorare Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum.
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.

Concede, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut nos Unigeniti tui nova per carnem nativitas liberet, quos sub peccati jugo vetusta servitus tenet.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that we who groan under the old captivity of sin, may be freed therefrom by the new Birth of thine Only Begotten Son.
(Commemoration of Christmas Day)

Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.
In those days, Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the Synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen; and they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke. Now hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying: Lord Jesus! receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord! lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. 
(Acts 6 and 7)

The Catholic Encyclopaedia on St Stephen:

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