Open Doors

Saturday, December 26, 2015
Saint Stephen

Saint Stephen

There are several noteworthy details about the martyrdom of Stephen. Stephen was one of a group of the first Deacons in the Church who were called and ordained to minister to the poor widows, so that the apostles could continue their presiding ministry of preaching. Yet Stephen wound up making a speech for Christ to his fellow Jews that cost him his life. He pulled no punches. Neither did his opponents, who seized him to stone him to death. Stephen then cried out as he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Many writers have commented that the Lord was seen standing (rather than seated) because he identified with Stephen as his first martyr/witness. The identification with Jesus continues, because Stephen, as he died, prayed the Lord to forgive his killers and then commended his spirit to Jesus just as the Lord had done to the Father.

One other detail is the presence of the young man who consented to Stephen’s death and kept the garments of those who stoned him, the man named Saul. He is none other than Saint Paul the Apostle before his conversion. Saul had not apparently known Jesus in the flesh but was a leading persecutor of the Church. Perhaps, when Saul was struck blind on the Damascus Road, when Christ revealed himself to him, perhaps the voice of the risen Lord sounded like Stephen’s: ‚ÄúSaul, Saul, why do you persecute me?‚Äù Or perhaps like a harmony of the voices of all those Saul had hurt or imprisoned. Felix Mendelssohn’s beautiful oratorio, Paulus, uses a female chorus for this line, perhaps reflecting Christ speaking through the whole Church.

We give the thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of thefirst martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to thy Son Jesus Christ, who standeth at thy right hand; where he liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

9:00 am - 3:00 pm


Each day we welcome hundreds of friends, neighbors and visitors, who come to worship, pray and quietly explore. If you find yourself in the middle of Midtown with some time on your hands, please stop by. You won’t regret it.

If you enter the church during a worship service, please join us. Simply have a seat in one of the pews. For services at the High Altar, leaflets are available from an usher. For services in the Chantry Chapel (which is to the left side after you enter the Fifth Avenue doors), service cards are available at the entrance to the aisle approximately 20 minutes before the start of the service. During worship services, please turn off all mobile devices. The use of cameras and recording devices is strictly prohibited. We encourage you to particpate in the worship service, but you are also welcome to sit quiety and observe.

If you visit when no organized event is underway, you are generally free to walk around the nave and Chantry Chapel to explore the wonders of the church. Printed self-guided tour pamphlets are available in the narthex, just inside the Fifth Avenue doors. You might notice others quietly praying or meditating, or someone at the rail in the Chantry Chapel venerating the Blessed Sacrament. Still others might be softly speaking with a priest or staff member. So while you may take photos during these times, and roam freely within the nave (the public area of the church), we ask that you take care not to disturb others. Silencing your electronic devices will help.