Let us Lectio: Christmas Feasts: Into Your Hands, O Lord
Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr, Dec. 26
Steps to Lectio Divina
Start by using these steps to reflect on the Scripture verse. Then read my meditation slowly.
Lectio: Having asked for the grace to hear God's word, read the passage twice.
Meditatio: During the second reading, pause whenever so moved and reflect on a word, a sentence, or an image that strikes you.
Oratio: Speak directly to God, and open your reflection to Him.
Contemplatio: Listen contemplatively for any response God might choose to make. Remember that God responds to us at times with loving silence.
From the First reading for Dec. 26, 2018, Feast of St. Stephen (Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59)
Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
"Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Just yesterday we celebrated the Lord God Almighty being born of a woman and becoming fully man. The King of Kings has come to His people! And today we find the feast of the first martyr, who died because he refused to deny the King of Kings.
I always have found the juxtaposition of these two feasts to be sobering, if not troubling. However, the Church Fathers were fully aware of the proximity of these two feasts in the development of the Octave of Christmas. There is a distinct purpose.
And these feasts have remained unaltered precisely because the Church, as a mother, wants to remind her children that calling Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes not with the scandal of sin but with the risk of bodily death. But she also assures us that this risk of death is not the end.
We remember our older brother in the faith, the first martyr of the faith to follow after the Lord Jesus uttered with His last breath, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Just hours after we sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, glory to the newborn king,” we arise from our rest and celebrate not the faith or courage of a single man. Rather, we celebrate the eternal truth that to those who trust in Him with a radical fidelity, He is also found faithful. We celebrate that the Lord, too, wishes that we might bring glory to Him and be happy with Him in heaven.
Today, let us remember our older brother in the faith by praying for those who would persecute the faith and even harm the faithful so they may see fully the mercy and grace of God and respond to Him: “To You, Lord Jesus Christ, I commend my spirit.”
Callie Nowlin, MTS, is a regular contributor to the North Texas Catholic.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.