Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the second day of Christmas and a national holiday in the Republic of Croatia. The Catholic Church remembers St. Stephen, its first martyr on this day. On this day the traditional blessing of families begins.
Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was one of seven deacons chosen in the church’s beginnings. His name in Greek means “crown” or “wreath.” Around 36 AD he openly preached Jesus’ teachings and belonging to the community of Christian learners, which is why he was convicted and sentenced to death by stoning.
The Holy Scriptures state that as he was dying Stephen said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” His fate was similar to that of Jesus. He is celebrated as the first Christian martyr of the faith. Iconography shows Stephen as a young man dressed as a deacon with a martyr’s palm leaf in one hand and a stone, the sign of the “weapon” used to kill him, in the other.
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