Monday, December 26, 2011

Icon Of The Crucified

"Lest we be tempted to sentimentalize the mystery of Christ's birth, the Church today sets before us the example of Stephen, first of martyrs, icon of the Crucified. Bethlehem is the prelude to Calvary. We may not merely stand adoring at the crib; we must also follow to the cross."
(Commentary from Magnificat Morning Prayer; Dec. 26, 2011)

I use to wonder why the Church gave us the feast of St Stephen immediately after Christmas. The above quote explains the reason perfectly and simply. To remind myself of this very fact, and to keep me from over~sentimentalizing the Nativity scene, I place a small crucifix at the back of my manger.
In St Stephen's witness to Christ we can see Christ Himself. Stephen was a deacon in the early Church, and as such was very well aware of the religious and political climate of his time. He knew preaching the Gospel could cost him his life. He also knew there was no better reason to die. The word martyr means witness and that is what Stephen did in his preaching.
In Stephen we see Christ Crucified and hear His words. Stephen's words at his death were the same as his Lord's at His death on the cross.
Jesus was the only baby who was born to die. That was His sole reason for coming. He did not die in vain, but to save each of us, and to bear witness to the Father.
The journey to the cross began in the heart and mind of the Trinity with the Divine decision of the Incarnation. Jesus took the first step toward the cross with His birth. In these days if Christmas as we kneel before the crib of the infant Jesus, let us vow to take the journey with Him to the cross by bearing witness to His life and Gospel just as St Stephen did.


Colleen @ ID said...

It is a sobering reminder, but an important and beautiful one. Great post, Karin, thank you. Good quote from Magnificat, too.

Karinann said...

Thanks Colleen. Yes it is sobering, but I think we can run the risk of being a little too sentimental about Christmas. Christ's Passion and death were not an after thought in God's mind, they were built into the Incarnation.
Have a Happy and Blessed New Year.

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.