Today, December 26, is the feast day of Saint Stephen, one of the first (some accounts make him the very first) martyrs to the Christian faith. Here’s what this morning’s missive from the Catholic Company has to say about him:
St. Stephen (1st. c.) was one of the Church’s first deacons in Jerusalem and an eloquent preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to Sacred Scripture he was “a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost” and “full of grace and fortitude.” The account of his martyrdom is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. After boldly preaching against the Jewish leaders for their rejection of the promised Messiah, he was accused of blasphemy and stoned to death by an angry mob. The man who would later become St. Paul the Apostle, while he was persecuting the Church before his conversion, was among the mob as an approving witness. St. Stephen’s name comes from the Greek word meaning ‘crown,’ fitting as he was the first Christian to earn the martyr’s crown. St. Stephen’s feast day is celebrated on December 26th.
Cheeky fellow, wasn’t he? In a way, his fate was a lesson to the rest of us about the virtue of discretion. Saint Francis of Assisi might have had Stephen in mind when he (allegedly) said “At all times preach the Gospels. When necessary, use words.”
All that having been said, Stephen must have been bold indeed to castigate the leaders of the Judean theocracy for dismissing Jesus as the Messiah. After all, they’d contrived His crucifixion. They weren’t likely to enjoy being reminded that they’d used the Roman occupation forces – roundly hated by the whole of Judea – to execute Him. Nor were they happy about the reports that He’d come back from death, which they unceasingly strove to condemn.
Which might help to account for this later ode, penned by a certain Robert Hunter:
Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes,
Country garden in the wind and the rain,
Wherever he goes the people all complain.
Stephen prospered in his time, well he may and he may decline.
Did it matter, does it now?
Stephen would answer if he only knew how.
Wishing well with a golden bell, bucket hanging clear to hell,
Hell halfway twixt now and then,
Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again.
Lady finger, dipped in moonlight,
Writing “what for?” across the morning sky.
Sunlight splatters dawn with answers,
Darkness shrugs and bids the day good-bye.
Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow,
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned.
Several seasons with their treasons,
Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own.
Did he doubt or did he try? Answers aplenty in the bye and bye,
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills,
One man gathers what another man spills.
Saint Stephen will remain, all he’s lost he shall regain,
Seashore washed by the suds and foam,
Been here so long, he’s got to calling it home.
Fortune comes a crawlin’, calliope woman, spinning that curious sense of your own.
Can you answer? Yes I can. But what would be the answer to the answer man?
High green chilly winds and windy vines in loops around the twining shafts of lavender, they’re crawling to the sun
Wonder who will water all the children of the garden when they sigh about the barren lack of rain and droop so hungry ‘neath the sky…
Underfoot the ground is patched with climbing arms of ivy wrapped around the manzanita, stark and shiny in the breeze
William Tell has stretched his bow till it won’t stretch no furthermore and/or it may require a change that hasn’t come before…
I hope you’re enjoying your Christmas Octave, Gentle Reader. Don’t let all the shreds of wrapping paper and all those empty boxes spoil your mood. If you’re tired of all the Christmas carols, try a little Grateful Dead. I suggest Anthem of the Sun or Aoxomoxoa. They go great with pancakes!
thank you for this, and for the memory of the years that Christmas eve would end with listening to “American Beauty”, as we shared some hot buttered rum… a few calm and quiet moments before mama and papa would head for bed, knowing it was only hours until the patter of running feet… at way too dang early Christmas morning.
God bless you, Fran.