The Feast of Stephen

You may wonder why Saint Stephen's day is the very day after Christmas. Saint Stephen was a martyr killed quite shortly after Jesus himself was put to death, by stoning and for the same sort of blasphemy against the Jewish tradition that occasioned Jesus' execution. You can read a version of the story here. St. Paul mentions Stephen's murder, having been a witness before his own conversion.
When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 22:17-22)
We know him best from two songs that have nothing to do with his life or death, but which pertain to his feast day. The more famous is "Good King Wenceslas," which takes place on the Feast of Stephen.

My favorite, though, is the Clancy Brothers' rendition of a song built around an Irish tradition called Wren Day. You can hear their retelling of the tradition starting at about 07:05, followed by a very cheerful song about the sacrificial tradition of wren killings and funerals.


Anonymous said...

Several years ago I got to attend St. Stephen's Day mass at St. Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna. It was a very moving experience, especially since the music was Handle's "Lord Nelson" Mass. The cardinal-archbishop's homily focused on the persecution of Christians and how we need to remember those who are not free to worship.


Grim said...

Yes, we ought. I was just reading an article about the destruction of much of the Christian infrastructure in the middle east.

MikeD said...

A year or two ago you posted a video from a young lady with a lovely voice singing Good King Wenceslas, and I'm sad to say I can't find it.

douglas said...

Mike- perhaps this one from Candice Night- it sounds familiar to me, but I'm not sure it's the same one Grim posted.

Loreena McKinnett's version is nice as well.