St Stephen the NewIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy Martyr St Stephen the New of Auxentios, may the holy martyr pray for us.

The holy martyr St Stephen the New was a confessor of the Orthodox faith against the heretics and iconoclasts. He was arrested and thrown into jail by the emperor. The emperor sent two guards to beat the saint to death. But when the two guards, who were twin brothers, saw the Divine Light from the saint, they knelt down and asked for forgiveness, and they proceeded to lie to the emperor that the saint was killed.

But the emperor learned of the case and lied to his soldiers that the saint was going to usurp his throne, and sent the soldiers after the saint. However, St Stephen came forward to allow the soldiers to drag him through the city. He died along the way, and his body was thrown into a pit for criminals.

The saint appeared in a fiery cloud and thunderstorm over Mount Auxentios the following morning.

When we reflect upon St Luke 20:9-18, we see the path before us. Do we choose God (so we will fall on the stone), or do we turn away from God?

God is the cornerstone. If we choose to fall on God, we will be broken. It is not God who breaks us, but it is our humility and repentance, to come before Him as broken and repentant. And when we do that, we are paving the way for our reconciliation with Him (Psalm 51:15-17, 2 Samuel 12:13). Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (St Matthew 5:3).

And yet when our own passions and delusions prevent us from seeking God, we turn our backs to Him, and we will be crushed by our own darkness. In Orthodoxy, we understand that God is ever-loving, and His light the same from the beginning till the end. What appears as warm light and gracious love to the saints and those who reconcile with Him, will simultaneously appear as scorching heat and sears through those who reject Him. It is all down to us, and what we seek, whether we seek reconciliation and healing, or self-destruction.

In the world we contend with today, there will be many voices who will attempt to drown out the forgiving love of God, like those who beat the messengers and kill the love of the vineyard owner. There will especially be those who seem to be extremely successful or powerful in the world, and seduce many to believe that wealth and power are the keys to life, or even the Kingdom.

But God is explicit, and so are the Holy Apostles and all the saints, that we are not to drown or trust in wealth, but to share it with those who need it (1 Timothy 6:17-21). It is up to us to be different, and to choose, and keep choosing God, till the end of our journeys.

Let us pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
2 Samuel 12:13
Psalm 51:15-17
St Luke 20:9-18
1 Timothy 6:17-21