Meditations - December 26th St Stephen
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
We will tomorrow honour St. Stephen, teaching us, first, love of our neighbour; seciond, zeal for the salvation of souls, which is love to our neighbour in its highest sense; third, Christian fortitude based upon hope. We will then make the resolution: first, to pardon our neighbour all his offences against us, and always to render good for evil; second, to labour with all our strength for the salvation of our brethren ; third, often to raise our courage in the midst of trials by the hope of heaven. Our spiritual nosegay shall be the words of St. Stephen "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts vii. 55).
Meditation for the Morning
Let us adore the Son of God in two very different states : infinitely abased in the crib, wherein the whole of this octave presents Him to us, and sovereignly raised in glory in heaven, where St. Stephen, whose feast it is to-day, beheld Him. These two states recall to us the order of things established by God: that is to say, that we must suffer upon earth with Jesus Christ, that we may rejoice in heaven with Him; combat here below, in order to triumph in the kingdom above; humble ourselves in this world, in order to be exalted in the world to come. Let us thank the Incarnate Word for this admirable economy of His Providence, and let us pray to Him to impress it deeply on our souls.
St. Stephen Teaches us to Love our Neighbour.
Let us heartily admire St. Stephen, tenderly loving all men, and, above all, those of whom he had to complain the most, those who had persecuted him and who had sworn to kill him. Far from bearing them malice, far from being enraged against them or desirous to revenge himself, he loves them with his whole soul, and if he reproves them it is only in order to make them better. If for all reply to his discourse they stone him, he continues to love them; he prays for those. Who are killing him, he prays on his knees, begging forgiveness, grace, and mercy for them: "Lord, lay not this sin lo their charge" (Acts vii. 59); and by the fervour of his prayer he obtained the conversion of Saul, and merits that his persecutor on earth should be his companion in glory in heaven. It is thus that he meets injuries with benefits, hatred with charity, anger with sweet ness, malice with loving kindness, and that he puts in practice the maxim of his Master : "Pray for them that persecute you, do good to them that hate you" (Matt v. 44). May this beautiful pattern teach us in admirable manner not only never to allow ourselves to yield to aversion, to bitterness, to annoyances, but to pardon all injuries, to bear with all defects, to render good for evil, and to show ourselves in all circumstances gracious and amiable to all without exception.
St. Stephen Teaches us Zeal for the Salvation of Souls.
It was not enough for St. Stephen to love his enemies ; he thirsts for them, he will at all costs gain them over to Jesus Christ and save them. In order to do so, he preaches to them, with all the vehemence of zeal and the authority of miracles, the divinity of Jesus Christ whom they have crucified (Acts vi. 8). They do not give heed to his words; he is not discouraged, and confounds his adversaries, who cannot resist the spirit of wisdom which speaks by his mouth (Acts vi. 10). Men falsely zealous for the law, uniting themselves with doctors and the princes of the nation, raise up the people against him ; they accuse him of blasphemy at the supreme tribunal of the Jews, uttering cries of rage and calling for his death; and these false: witnesses denounce him as sinning against the temple and the law of Moses. Stephen, happy at meeting with so favourable an opportunity for preaching Jesus Christ, presents himself before his judges with a modest exterior which reveals him to be in his person rather an angel of heaven than a mortal man (Acts vi. 15). Then beginning to speak, he establishes by the Holy Scripture the divinity of the Saviour Jesus. He receives no other answer from his judges than the furious anger of self-love cut to the heart (Acts vii. 54); they utter great cries, they stop their ears, so that they may not hear him (Acts vii. 56) ; they throw themselves upon him, they cast him out of the city in order to stone him, and the holy deacon does not cease to preach to them until he has ceased to live. Can there be zeal for souls more admirable, more intrepid, more generous? Alas l what relation is there between us and the holy preacher. We be hold souls being lost, and we are so little touched, and we do so little to save them! Let us at last kindle the sacred fire of zeal within us.
St. Stephen Teaches us Christian Strength based upon Hope.
Our present life is nothing but a continual martyrdom : a martyrdom of the body through infirmities and sickness, a martyrdom of the soul through the deceptions of self-love, losses and reverses, ill-will and hatred, weariness and dis gust. Let us learn from our holy deacon to have Christian strength, which, founded upon hope, is invincible in face of all trials. St. Stephen under the rain of stones cast on him by his enemies raises his eyes to heaven; he there sees the glory of God into which he is about to enter; the glory of Jesus Christ who is about to crown him; and triumphs delightedly and is thrilled with joy at the sight. '' I see," he says,' '' the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts vii. 55). With such a spectacle before him, death seemed to be happiness. Exhausted by loss of blood and ready to expire, he yields his soul with joy into the arms of Jesus Christ, who introduces him into Paradise (Acts vii. 58). Thus is accomplished the oracle of the Holy Spirit so well suited to sustain us under trial : A little patience and in return happiness (Ecclus. i. 29). How is it with us in regard to Christian strength founded upon hope? We are cowardly under trial;. the least suffering discourages and casts us down. One glance of faith directed to heaven will render us strong, and we shall be invincible.
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.