December 28, 2010

Christmas and the Martyrs

And thy own soul a sword shall pierce
Christ came for one reason... to die. It is no wonder that the first three days after Christmas Day are dedicated to the 3 types of Martyrs.
December 26 - The Feast of St. Stephen - Martyrdom of Blood
[And Stephen said] "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it." When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I See the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7.51-60)

December 27 - Holy Innocents - Martyrdom of the Innocent and Pure of Heart
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. . . My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 1. 5-9, 2.2)
The Flight into Egypt
It would be remiss to skip over the Flight into Egypt alongside the Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents.
Now after they (the Magi) had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son." When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. (St. Matthew 2.13-16)
December 28 - St. John the Evangelist - White Martyr in Exile
The Poisoned Cup of St. John stems from the miracle story when St. John blessed the poison in a cup of wine intended for him to consume. The poison was transformed into a serpent. He was also thrown in a cauldron of boiling oil where he was miraculously preserved from death. The title of martyr was given him by the Church Fathers, who say that it was fulfilled what Christ had foretold, that he should drink of His chalice.

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