Icon of the Martyrdom of St. Stephen – F144


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Egg Tempera


Monk Michael of Athos


20th c. (Late)


Saint Stephen is the first Christian martyr who, though innocent, dies willingly in love for God and as a witness that God is real, more valuable than anything upon this earth, and that without resistance to evil being done upon us, we can forgive and pray for even those who kill us.  This path of martyrdom is the foundation of the Christian Church.  St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons of the Church, died exactly one year after the first Pentecost, when the flames of fire fell upon the Apostles.

As St. Stephen had preached the Gospel openly, calling others to enter this Divine life of love and repentance, he worked miracles and did many healings.  The Jewish elders, jealous of this and his doctrine, stirred up the people, holding a council where they brought false witnesses against him.  St. Stephen spoke eloquently before the council, and was so filled with the Holy Spirit that his face shone like an angel as he looked up into Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  The unrepentant people stopped up their ears, ran at him, cast him out of the city and stoned him to death while he prayed for them not to be condemned for this act.