Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Second Day of Christmas: St. Stephen, The First Martyr

We have only just celebrated the birth of our Lord and already the liturgy presents us with the feast of the first person to give his life for this Baby who has been born. Yesterday we wrapped Christ in swaddling clothes; today, he clothes Stephen with the garment of immortality. Yesterday, a narrow manger cradled the baby Christ; today, the infinite heaven has received Stephen in triumph. (St. Fulgentius, Sermon 3)

The Church wants to make us realize that the Cross is always very close to Jesus and his followers. As he struggles for perfect righteousness - sanctity - in this world, the Christian will meet perfect situations and attacks by the enemies of God. Our Lord has warned us: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you ... Remember the word that I said to you; a servant is not greater than his master: If they persecuted me they will persecute you. (John 15:18-20) Since the very beginning of the Church this prophecy has been fulfilled. And in our days too, if we really follow Our Lord, we are going to suffer difficulties and persecutions in one way or another and of different kinds. Every age is an age of martyrdom, St. Augustine tells us. Don't say that Christians are not suffering persecution; the Apostle's words are always true ...: All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12) All, he says, with no one being excluded or exempted. If you want to test the truth of this saying, you have only to begin to lead a pious life and you will see what good reason he had for saying this. (St. Augustine, Sermon 6, 2)
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

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