Today is the Feast of Stephen as in “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen.” (It’s amazing how many things make sense once you start keeping the Christian Year.)

The story of Stephen’s martyrdom is told in Acts 7.  As Stephen is dying he looks up and sees a vision of Jesus standing beside the Father (v 55). The image of Jesus standing rather than sitting at the right hand of God is, as far as I know, unique in the New Testament. In other heavenly visions and in the Creed, Jesus sits. Watching the violent death of one his own, Christ stands.  Does he stand in sympathy, in righteous anger, in honor? I don’t know. Nevertheless, the image beheld by Stephen is transfixing.

This distinction is noted in the collect for today: We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at your right hand; where he lives reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


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