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Thursday, December 7, 2023, 9:49AM  
On December 27 in the Holy Orthodox Church, the second day of the After-feast of the Nativity of Christ, we commemorate the holy Apostle, First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen, one of the Seven Deacons.

Stephen was the first and archdeacon of the seven deacons whom the holy apostles ordained and appointed to the service of assisting the poor in Jerusalem.  The account of Stephen’s ministry and martyrdom is outlined in detail in Acts of the Apostles, from which we read in today’s Great Vespers and Divine Liturgy.  Among the Proto-martyr’s persecutors was his kinsman Saul, later the Apostle Paul.  At that time, the Most-holy Theotokos, standing on a rock at a distance with John the Theologian, witnessed the martyrdom of this first martyr for the truth of her Son and God, and she prayed to God for Stephen.  This occurred one year after the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.  Gamaliel, a prince of the Jews and a secret Christian, clandestinely took Stephen's body and buried it on his own estate.  Thus, this first among the Christian martyrs gloriously reposed and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ God.

Through his intercessions, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us, and save us.  Amen.
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