The Finding And The Translation Of The Relics Of St. Stephen, The Archdeacon And Proto-Martyr When the wicked Jews slew St. Stephen by stoning, they left his body for the dogs to consume. However, God’s providence intended otherwise. The martyr’s body lay in an open place at the foothill of the city for one night and two days. The second night Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher and secretly a disciple of Christ, came and removed the body, taking it to Caphargamala, and buried it there in a cave on his own land. Gamaliel later buried his friend Nicodemus, who died weeping over the grave of Stephen, in the same cave. Gamaliel also buried his godson Abibus there; and, according to his own will, he himself was buried there also. Many centuries passed, until no one living knew where the body of St. Stephen was buried. Then, in the year 415 A.D., during the reign of Patriarch John of Jerusalem, Gamaliel appeared three times in dreams to Lucian, the priest at Caphargamala. Gamaliel related everything concerning the burial of himself, Stephen, and the others, showing him the exact spot of their forgotten grave. Affected by this dream, Lucian informed the patriarch, and, with his blessing, went with a group of men and exhumed the four graves. Gamaliel had already told him in the dream whose grave was which. A strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, emanating from the relics of the saints, permeated the entire cave. The relics of St. Stephen were then solemnly translated to Zion, and were honorably buried there. The relics of the remaining three were placed in a church, located on the hill above the cave. Many healings of the sick were occasioned by the relics of St. Stephen. Later on, St. Stephen’s relics were translated to Constantinople. Thus the Lord crowned with much glory him who shed his blood for His name.
The Priestly-Martyr Stephen, Pope Of Rome, And Others With Him Stephen was Pope of Rome between the years 253-257 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Valerian. He struggled against the heretic Novatian. He cured Lucilla, the daughter of Nemesius the tribune, and baptized them both. Stephen, with twelve of his priests, was beheaded during the celebration of the Liturgy.
The Holy And Blessed Basil, Fool-For-Christ Of Moscow Basil’s father was named Jacob, and his mother Anna. At age sixteen, he dedicated himself to a life of asceticism as a fool-for-Christ, and persevered for seventy-two years in this difficult ascesis. He lived to his eighty-eighth year. He traveled bareheaded, barefoot, and in rags. He had no permanent dwelling place. He admonished sinners, reprimanded noblemen, prophesied the truth, and had visions of distant events. Having suffered greatly from hunger, frost and the insults of men, Blessed Basil presented his holy soul to God. The metropolitan and Tsar Ivan attended his funeral. He was entombed in Moscow, in the Church of the Most-holy Birth-giver of God, which was later re-consecrated in his name.
Hymn Of Praise
In the middle of the dark night, Gamaliel appeared
To Lucian, and a wondrous mystery revealed.
Gamaliel appeared as an elder dignified:
A mysterious smile on his radiant face,
With gray hair and a long, gray beard,
And a garment of white, with a red cross adorned.
Gamaliel set four casks
In a cave, beside four graves.
Three were of gold, the fourth of silver;
Each one, with beautiful flowers, was filled.
The first was full of red flowers,
The remaining with white ones from the spring of Paradise.
“This golden cask,” Gamaliel said,
“With flowers red, from which a fragrance flows,
Before the grave of Saint Stephen, is set,
Who, for the Living Christ, shed his blood.
The other two gold casks, with flowers so white,
By me, Gamaliel, and holy Nicodemus are shared:
Here is his body, and there is mine.
And the fourth, of purest silver,
With flowers white, is by where Abibus rests–
My only son, whom alive, I see.
His cask is white and his flowers are white
For his pure soul and pure body:
Young and baptized he died, like an early bloom,
My son, I buried, beside Saint Stephen
That the saint, my son Abibus, might help,
As he helps every Christian.”
We must be patient and merciful toward the sinner, if we wish that our long- suffering God be merciful to us. The great compassion of Blessed Alexander, Patriarch of Antioch, was proverbial. One of his scribes stole several gold pieces and fled to the Thebaid. Robbers captured him in the wilderness and took him with them. Learning of this, Alexander sent the robbers eighty-five gold pieces as a ransom. That is why it was said: “The mercy of Alexander cannot be overcome by any sin.” St. John the Merciful writes: “The long-suffering of God is unchangeable, as is His kind mercy… How many criminals who go out to kill and rob does He conceal, so that they may not be captured and tortured? Pirates sail the sea, yet God does not order the sea to drown them. How many falsely swear by Holy Communion, and He is patient, not immediately repaying them evil for evil? Highwaymen rob citizens on the road, yet He does not give them over to the beasts to tear them to pieces… Libertines go off with prostitutes, and He is patient. Why all of this? Because He waits for repentance and conversion. Truly, God does not want the destruction of a sinner…That is why, brethren, we should be ashamed before the most patient Lord God.”
To contemplate God’s miraculous assistance to the repentant Israelites (Judges 11):
- How the penitents cried out to God: Do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; deliver us only, we pray Thee, this day (Judges 10);
- How the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Jephthah and he destroyed the Ammonites and liberated Israel;
- How, even today, the repentance of men brings peace with God, and brings down the help of God to those who are fallen.
About God’s grievance against the unfaithful people
“Hear, O heavens and listen, O earth, for the Lord speaks: sons have I raised and reared but they have disowned me!” (Isaiah 1:2).
The wrath of God! God turns from the chosen people in wrath and grieves to His other creations; He grieves to the heavens and the earth. “Hearken, my holy and rational angels, and hearken, all you irrational earthly creatures! I wanted to make this people holy and rational–yet they have lowered themselves beneath irrational creatures with their impurity and ungratefulness. I have called them my sons and exalted them, and they turned their backs on me and went after foul idols.” The wrath of God, the wrath of love, that even a thousand times does good to a leper, and is a thousand times spat upon by the leper. If all the elements could speak, they, with all living things, would witness to all the great miracles that the One Living God performed for the people of Israel in Egypt and in the wilderness, simply so they would turn away from idolatry and believe in the One Living and Almighty God. This would be attested to by water and blood, by stone and wood, by darkness and fire, by frogs and flies, by birds and serpents, by sickness and death, by clouds and smoke, by winds and manna, and copper and iron; together with Pharaoh and the countless numbers of nations miraculously defeated by the hand of God and removed from the path of the people of Israel. Even so, Israel turned from God and went after idols. This is the dreadful vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God. O my brethren, just imagine what kind of vision the Prophet Isaiah would have concerning us, if he would appear today among our people! O Lord, the only living, the only omnipotent, affix our mind and our heart to You, the true God–and safeguard us from temptations to apostatize from You. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.