Grant, O Lord, that in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of your truth, we may steadfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of your first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to you, O blessed Jesus, who stands at the right hand of God to help all those that suffer for you, our only Mediator and Advocate.
ALMIGHTY God, who has given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit forever, one God, world without end.
2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Psalm 119:161-168; Acts 7:55-60; Matthew 23:34-39
It feels odd, at first, to celebrate and remember a martyr the day after Christmas. It’s a sobering reminder, on one hand, that the life Christ calls us into still involves persecution and suffering and even death. In the Gospel, Jesus observes that such righteous suffering has happened before (as demonstrated in the Old Testament reading) and will continue to happen (as demonstrated with Stephen in the book of the Acts). Today’s collect brings some of Stephen’s final visions and words to us as a prayer that we can all share: may we all “behold the glory that shall be revealed” and “learn to love and bless our persecutors.” Yesterday’s Christmas collect (which is repeated today and for the next several days) points out that Christ took on our human nature – he became like us. Today’s lessons remind us that it’s a mutual exchange: we too, like Christ, are called to a life of potential suffering and death, with the glory of eternal life beyond it.