Today, the church remembers St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church.
And he is the first of many, and of many sure to come, as the army of martyrs grows even this Christmas.
There is a particular parallel between the martyrdom of Stephen and the martyrdom of now thousands of Christians in the Middle East today that we must not ignore. After the stoning of St. Stephen, the church was for the most part forced to flee from Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1) Today, the church is being pressured by Muslims (There. I said it.) to flee from much of the Middle East. The population of Christians in several Middle East countries is shrinking precipitously. It is distressing, and it is hard to see what can be done about it.
And I am at a loss even what to say, except to pray and to remember that the holy Army of Martyrs will grow yet larger and will triumph in the end.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Rev. 6:9-11