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confessed, and who gave them constancy and victory, is in very deed the power and the wisdom of God. We repeat, then—it is just, that the Martyrs should share in all the triumphs of the Man-God, and that the liturgical cycle should glorify them as does the Church herself, who puts their sacred Relics in her altar-stones; for, thus, the Sacrifice of their glorified Lord and Head is never celebrated, without they themselves being offered together with him, in the unity of his mystical Body.
Now, the glorious Martyr-band of Christ is headed by St. Stephen. His name signifies the Crowned;— a conqueror like him could not be better named. He marshals, in the name of Christ, the white-robed army, as the Church calls the Martyrs; for, he was the first, even before the Apostles themselves, to receive the summons, and right nobly did he answer it. Stephen courageously bore witness, in the presence of the Jewish Synagogue, to the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth; by thus proclaiming the Truth, he offended the ears of the unbelievers; the enemies of God, became the enemies of Stephen, and, rushing upon him, they stone him to death. Amidst the pelting of the blood-drawing missives, he, like a true soldier, flinches not, but stands, (as St. Gregory of Nyssa so beautifully describes it,) as though snowflakes were falling on him, or roses were covering him with the shower of their kisses. Through the cloud of stones, he sees the glory of God;—Jesus, for whom he was laying down his life, showed himself to his Martyr, and the Martyr again rendered testimony to the divinity of our Emmanuel, but with all the energy of a last act of love. Then, to make his sacrifice complete, he imitates his divine Master, and prays for his executioners: falling on his knees, he begs that this sin be not laid to their charge. Thus, all is consummated—the glorious type of Martyrdom is created, and shown to the world, that it may be imitated, by every generation, to the end of time, until the number of the Martyrs of Christ shall be filled up. Stephen sleeps in the Lord, and is buried in peace—in pace—until his sacred Tomb shall be discovered, and his glory be celebrated a second time in the whole Church, by that anticipated Resurrection of the miraculous Invention of his Relics.
Stephen, then, deserves to stand near the Crib of his King, as leader of those brave champions, the Martyrs, who died for the Divinity of that Babe, whom we adore. Let us join the Church in praying to our Saint, that he help us to come to our Sovereign Lord, now lying on his humble throne in Bethlehem. Let us ask him to initiate us into the mystery of that divine Infancy, which we are all bound to know and imitate. It was from the simplicity he had learnt from that Mystery, that he heeded not the number of the enemies he had to fight against, nor trembled at their angry passion, nor winced under their blows, nor hid from them the Truth and their crimes, nor forgot to pardon them and pray for them. What a faithful imitator of the Babe of Bethlehem! Our Jesus did not send his Angels to chastise those unhappy Bethlehemites, who refused a shelter to the Virgin-Mother, who in a few hours was to give birth to Him, the Son of David. He stays not the fury of Herod, who plots his Death—but meekly flees into Egypt, like some helpless bondsman, escaping the threats of a tyrant lordling. But, it is under such apparent weakness as this, that he will show his Divinity to men, and He the Infant-God prove himself the Strong God. Herod will pass away, so will his tyranny; Jesus will live, greater in his Crib, where be makes a King tremble, than is, under his borrowed majesty, this prince-tributary of Rome; nay, than Caesar-Augustus himself, whose world-wide empire has no other destiny than this—to serve as handmaid to the Church, which is to be founded by this Babe, whose name stands humbly written in the official registry of Bethlehem.
The Introit is composed of the words of the holy Martyr, who, in the language of the Royal Psalmist, tells us of the plot formed against him by the wicked, and of his own humble confidence in God, whereby he triumphed over their persecutions. From the murder of the innocent Abel to the future Martyrs, who are to shed their blood in the days of Antichrist—the Church is always under persecution; in some one country, she is ever shedding her blood; but, her strength lies in her fidelity to Jesus her Spouse, and in the simplicity, which the Babe of. Bethlehem is come to teach her by his own example.
Sederunt principes, et ad- Princes sat, and spoke versum me loquebantur; et against me; and sinners periniqui persecuti sunt me; secuted me: help me, 0 Lord
meus, quia servus tuus ex- practised thy commandments. ercebatur in tuis justificationibus.
Ps. Beati immaculati in Ps. Blessed are the undefiled
via, qui ambulant in lege in the way, who walk in the
Domini. ^. Gloria Patri. law of the Lord. Glory,
Sederunt. &c. Princes sat, &C. ,
In the Collect, the Church asks, for both herself and her children, that divine vigour, which makes the holy Martyrs forgive their persecutors, and perfects, not only their testimony to the truth, but also their imitation of Jesus Christ. It speaks the praise of St. Stephen, who was the first to follow our Saviour's example.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech Da nobis, quaesumus, Do
thee, that we may imitate him mine, imitari quod colimus:
whose memory we celebrate, ut discamus et inimicos di
so as to learn to love even our ligere; quia ejus natalitia
enemies; because we now celebramus, qui novit etiam
solemnise his martyrdom, who pro persecutoribus exorare
knew how to pray, even for Dominum nostrum Jesum
his persecutors, to our Lord Christum Filium tuum. Qui
Jesus Christ, thy Son. Who tecum. liveth, &c.
Commemoration of Christmas Day.
LEX US PRAY. OREMUS.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Concede, quaesumus, om
Almighty God, that we who nipotens Deus : ut nos Uni
groan under the old captivity geniti tui nova per carnein
of sin, may be freed therefrom nativitas liberet, quos sub
by the new Birth of thine peccati jugo vetusta servi
Only Begotten Son. Through tus tenet. Per eumdem. the same, &c.
Lesson from the Acts of the
Ch . VI. and VII.
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
Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.
Cap. VI. et VII.
In diebus illis, Stephanus, plenus gratia et fortitudine, faciebat prodigia et signa magna in populo. Surrexerunt autem quidam de synagoga, quae appelatur Libertinorum. et Cyrenensium, et Alexandrinorum, et eorum qui erant a Cilicia et Asia, disputantes cum Stephano, et non poterant resistere sapientiae, et Spiritui qui loquebatur. Audientes autem haec, dissecabantur cordibus suis, et stridebant dentibus in eum. Cum autem esset Stephanus plenus Spiritu Sancto, intendens in coelum, vidit gloriam Dei, et Jesum stantem a dextris Dei. Et ait: Ecce video codes apertos, et Filium hominis stantem a dextris Dei. Exclamantes autem voce magna continuerunt aurea suas, et impetum fecerunt unanimiter in eum. Et ejicientes eum extra civitatem, lapidabant. Et testes deposuerunt vestimenta sua secus pedes adolescentis, qui vocabatur Saulus. Et lapidabant Stephanum invocantem, et dicentem: Domine Jesu, suscipe spiritum meum. Positis autem genibus, clamavit voce magna, dicens: Domine, ne statuas illis hoc peccatum. Et cum hoc dixlsset, obdormivit in Do
gnashed with their teeth at him. But Stephen being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up stedfastly 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.
Thus, o glorious Prince of Martyrs ! thou wast led outside the gates of the City for thy sacrifice, and thy punishment was that of blasphemers. The Disciple was to be like to his Master, in all things. But neither the ignominy of such a death, nor its cruelty, could daunt thy great soul: thou didst carry Jesus in thy heart, and, with Him, thou wast stronger than all thy enemies. And what was thy joy, when thou sawest the heavens open, and this same Jesus in his glorified Humanity, standing at the right hand of God, and looking upon thee with love! A God looking complacently on the creature that is going to die for him, and the creature permitted to behold the God for whom he is dying—truly, this was more than enough to encourage thee! Let thine enemies