From many disciples the Apostles ordained seven deacons, including Stephen, to assist in caring for the less fortunate. While God worked many miracles through him, Stephen preached with such grace that many came to follow Jesus.
The success of Stephen’s ministry dismayed the enemies of the Church, who bribed others to accuse him of blasphemy. Stephen confronted his accusers without fear, his face, “like the face of an angel.” Stephen spoke bravely about Jesus, showing that He is the promised Savior and upbraiding the people for their unbelief. Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into Heaven, saying that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. At this, his detractors rushed him, dragged him outside the city of Jerusalem and began stoning him to death. Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Falling to his knees, the saint asked God not to punish his murderers and passed to his heavenly reward.
In this icon, Stephen’s tonsure, or the styling of his hair, and his vestments reflect those of a deacon in the early Church. The feast day of Saint Stephen, the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr’s crown, is December 26.
(This narrative is printed on the back of Note Cards. A copy is included with each plaque.)
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