Friday, December 26, 2008

St. Stephen's Day

It's odd enough having the feast of a saint during the Christmas Octave (you can tell that the Christmas Octave isn't quite at the level of the Easter Octave when every last feast day, even if a solemnity, gives way to Easter); today is a martyr's feast. So right after the stars and angels of a birth, we have the bruised and bloodied death of a witness to the Resurrection. Is it another hint of the "sign of contradiction" that Christ will always be?
In this year of St. Paul, the feast of St. Stephen also draws our attention to the mystery of God's "permissive" will. There is a hint in the Acts of the Apostles that Stephen debated with the ardent Pharisee Saul, who was from the Roman province of "Syria and Cilicia" (and Stephen bested the members of a Cilician synagogue in a discussion about the Messiah and the Law). As Stephen was stoned (for blasphemy) by a lynch mob (is it a "lynch" mob if you are stoned?), Saul watched over the possessions of the murderers. (Odd that he didn't "cast a stone": was he too young to participate in the ritual punishment?) Who would have guessed that the same "Son of Man" appearing to Stephen through the open Heavens would soon enough appear to Saul, who would then more than take Stephen's place as an evangelizer?
Nothing is beyond the reach of grace!

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