Universalis
Friday 26 December 2014    (other days)
Saint Stephen, the first Martyr
Feast

Office of Readings

If this is the first Hour that you are reciting today, you should precede it with the Invitatory Psalm.


INTRODUCTION
O God, come to our aid.
  O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Hymn
The martyrs living now with Christ
In suffering were tried,
Their anguish overcome by love
When on his cross he died.
Across the centuries they come,
In constancy unmoved,
Their loving hearts make no complaint,
In silence they are proved.
No man has ever measured love,
Or weighed it in his hand,
But God who knows the inmost heart
Gives them the promised land.
Praise Father, Son and Spirit blest,
Who guides us through the night
In ways that reach beyond the stars
To everlasting light.
Francis E. Mostyn (1860-1939)

Psalm 2
The Messiah, king and victor
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.
Why are the nations in a ferment?
  Why do the people make their vain plans?
The kings of the earth have risen up;
  the leaders have united against the Lord,
  against his anointed.
“Let us break their chains, that bind us;
  let us throw off their yoke from our shoulders!”
The Lord laughs at them,
  he who lives in the heavens derides them.
Then he speaks to them in his anger;
  in his fury he throws them into confusion:
“But I – I have set up my king on Zion,
my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decrees.
The Lord has said to me: “You are my son: today I have begotten you.
  Ask me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance,
  the ends of the earth for you to possess.
You will rule them with a rod of iron,
  break them in pieces like an earthen pot.”
So now, kings, listen: understand, you who rule the land.
  Serve the Lord in fear, tremble even as you praise him.
Learn his teaching, lest he take anger,
  lest you perish when his anger bursts into flame.
Blessed are all who put their trust in the Lord.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen.
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.

Psalm 10 (11)
The Lord, support of the just
Stephen knelt down and cried out, ‘Lord Jesus, do not hold this sin against them.’
I trust in the Lord, so why do you say to me:
  “Fly up to the mountain like a sparrow”?
“For the wicked have drawn their bows,
  fitted the arrow to the string,
  to shoot in darkness at the upright of heart.
When the foundations are being overthrown,
  what are the just to do?”
The Lord is in his holy temple;
  the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes look down on the poor,
  he examines the children of men.
The Lord scrutinises the just and the unjust,
  and his heart hates those who do evil.
He rains down coals upon the wicked,
  fire and brimstone and a scorching wind:
  this is what he gives them to drink.
For the Lord is just and loves just deeds,
  and the upright shall see his face.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen.
Stephen knelt down and cried out, ‘Lord Jesus, do not hold this sin against them.’

Psalm 16 (17)
Save me from wrongdoers
No one could withstand the wisdom with which Stephen spoke, since he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Hear the case I bring before you, Lord,
  listen to my plea.
Lend your ears to the voice of my pleading:
  on my lips there is no deceit.
Give judgement yourself in my favour,
  let your eyes see that justice is done.
Search my heart, inspect it by night,
  test me with fire –
  in me you will find no wrong.
My speech is not turned aside towards the works of men:
  and because of your words I keep far from the ways of the violent.
Keep my steps from leaving your paths,
  so that I may never stumble.
I have cried to you, God, because you will listen;
  turn your ear to me and listen to my words.
Pour out your kindness till men are astonished,
  you, who keep safe from attack
  all who trust in your strength.
Guard me as the apple of your eye,
  hide me in the shade of your wings,
  away from the wicked who have done me wrong.
In their rage, my enemies surround me,
  they have sealed up their hearts and their mouths utter threats.
They advance, they surround me,
  they watch for their chance to send me sprawling to the ground.
Their faces are like lions eager for their prey,
  like lion cubs lying and waiting in their den.
Rise up, O Lord, face my enemy and defeat him,
  with your sword rescue my life from the wicked.
By your hand, Lord, rescue me from death;
  from joining the dead, who have life no more.
From your storehouse you fill men’s bellies,
  their children are sated, they leave the rest to their heirs.
And I, being upright, shall see your face,
  the sight of you, when I wake, will be all that I need.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
  as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
  world without end.
Amen.
No one could withstand the wisdom with which Stephen spoke, since he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Tribulation and anguish are upon me;
I meditate on your commandments.

First Reading
Acts 6:8-7:2,44-8:1 ©
Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
  The high priest asked, ‘Is this true?’ He replied, ‘My brothers, my fathers, listen to what I have to say. ‘While they were in the desert our ancestors possessed the Tent of Testimony that had been constructed according to the instructions God gave Moses, telling him to make an exact copy of the pattern he had been shown. It was handed down from one ancestor of ours to another until Joshua brought it into the country we had conquered from the nations which were driven out by God as we advanced. Here it stayed until the time of David. He won God’s favour and asked permission to have a temple built for the House of Jacob, though it was Solomon who actually built God’s house for him. Even so the Most High does not live in a house that human hands have built: for as the prophet says:
With heaven my throne
and earth my footstool,
what house could you build me,
what place could you make for my rest?
Was not all this made by my hand?
‘You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You who had the Law brought to you by angels are the very ones who have not kept it.’
They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep. Saul entirely approved of the killing.
Responsory
While the Jews were stoning him, Stephen, the servant of God, saw the heavens opened; he saw and entered in: blessed is the man to whom the heavens were thrown open.
Even while he was being done to death by a hail of clattering stones, the splendour of God shone upon him in the inmost recesses of the court of heaven: blessed is the man to whom the heavens were thrown open.

Second Reading
A sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe
The armour of love
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.
  Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
  Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
  And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
  Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
  Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
  My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
Responsory
Yesterday the Lord was born on earth, that Stephen might be born in heaven; he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.
Yesterday our king came forth from the virgin’s womb, clothed in a garment of flesh; he entered into the world, that Stephen might enter into heaven.

CanticleTe Deum
God, we praise you; Lord, we proclaim you!
You, the Father, the eternal –
all the earth venerates you.
All the angels, all the heavens, every power –
The cherubim, the seraphim –
unceasingly, they cry:
“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts:
heaven and earth are full of the majesty of your glory!”
The glorious choir of Apostles –
The noble ranks of prophets –
The shining army of martyrs –
all praise you.
Throughout the world your holy Church proclaims you.
– Father of immeasurable majesty,
– True Son, only-begotten, worthy of worship,
– Holy Spirit, our Advocate.
You, Christ:
– You are the king of glory.
– You are the Father’s eternal Son.
– You, to free mankind, did not disdain a Virgin’s womb.
– You defeated the sharp spear of Death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to those who believe in you.
– You sit at God’s right hand, in the glory of the Father.
– You will come, so we believe, as our Judge.
And so we ask of you: give help to your servants, whom you set free at the price of your precious blood.
Number them among your chosen ones in eternal glory.
The final part of the hymn may be omitted:
Bring your people to safety, Lord, and bless those who are your inheritance.
Rule them and lift them high for ever.
Day by day we bless you, Lord: we praise you for ever and for ever.
Of your goodness, Lord, keep us without sin for today.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.
Let your pity, Lord, be upon us, as much as we trust in you.
In you, Lord, I trust: let me never be put to shame.

Let us pray.
Give us grace, Lord, to practise what we worship.
Teach us to love our enemies
  as we keep the feast of Saint Stephen,
  who prayed even for the men who stoned him to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
  one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Let us praise the Lord.
– Thanks be to God.

The psalms and canticles here are our own translation. The Grail translation of the psalms, which is used liturgically in most of the English-speaking world, cannot be displayed on the Web for copyright reasons. The Universalis downloads do contain the Grail translation of the psalms.

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