Paul Rejoices with Stephen

From Sermon 3.5-6 (ca. 520)

The love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who had erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him to save them from punishment.

Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won the persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul; but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This surely is the true life, beloved, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (467-533) was a North African bishop and theologian, who suffered exile for his defense of orthodox teaching about the nature of Christ against the Arian heresy. He founded several monastic communities, and was famous for his gifts as a preacher, which legend says always caused his own archbishop to weep. His feast day is January 1.


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