Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr
“Beware of men.” Those are the first words given us in the Gospel of the first day after the birth of the Savior. The wisdom of the Church, the wisdom of Holy Tradition, is the work of the Holy Spirit teaching us through time, leading us into the fullness of Truth. That Truth is revealed in Jesus, the new-born babe: but the Spirit of God will allow us no sentimental indulgence. This baby is born to wage war with all the enemies of God, and with all the enemies of that human nature He has taken on. This baby is born to suffer and die in love of God, and to rise in triumph over all that is hostile to that love.
And so the Church proposes the martyrdom of St. Stephen, Deacon, for our spiritual nourishment. The gentle witness of Stephen provoked the enemies of God to rage, and in their fury they killed Him, and He died bearing witness by his comportment to the Lord in whose Name, and in the hope of Whose Name, he lay down his life.
There is a radical aloneness to which we are called as Christians. It is not the solitude of pride, but the solitude of true love which shuns facile bonhomie, and is always on the lookout for communion. And looking for that true communion means not settling for less. It is a lonely watch in this world, for its company is above all the communion of saints in Heaven. It is the lonely watch of Mary and Joseph in a wintry cave in a desolate landscape. And yet there was the moonlight, and stars, and gradually shepherds came, wise men too will come. The company of those who keep vigil, and who can walk alone, in a company of hope.