Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr
How long will you forget me, O Lord; for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have anguish in my soul and grief in my heart, day after day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.
But I put my trust in your steadfast love; my heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt so bountifully with me.
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Incline your ear to me; make haste to deliver me. Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my stronghold; guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake. Take me out of the net
that they have laid secretly for me, for you are my strength. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I put my trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy, for you have seen my affliction and known my soul in adversity. You have not shut me up in the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in an open place.
O praise God in his holiness; praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet; praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances; praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals; praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’ What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Gracious Father, who gave the first martyr Stephen grace to pray for those who took up stones against him: grant that in all our sufferings for the truth we may learn to love even our enemies and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt, looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us, Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.