St. Stephen, the first deacon and martyr of the Church of Jerusalem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

St. Stephen, the first deacon and martyr of the Church of Jerusalem

On the first day after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first deacon and first martyr.

Stephen was the first of seven deacons chosen by the Apostles to help them in the ministry of faith. Venerated as a Saint by both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, he is the Christian Protomaryr, that is, the first to give his life in order to bear witness to his faith in Christ and to spread the Gospel.
When his martyrdom by stoning took place, Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) was present, before his conversion.

On December 26, the friars of the Custody, along with other religious, pilgrims and parishioners, make the traditional pilgrimage from the Orthodox Monastery in the Kidron Valley, across from Gethsemane and the Tomb of Mary.
Fra Artemio Vítores, Custodial Vicar, took part in the ceremony, which was held in the grotto, illuminated by hundreds of candles, where the reading from the Acts of the Apostles was read in commemoration of the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Fra Eugenio Alliata, archaeologist of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem, reminded those present of the significance of the celebration.
In Jerusalem, the memory of St. Stephen covers a long and complex history, beginning with the miraculous discovery of his body in the year 415, in Cafargamala (Beit Gemal).
In the second half of the thirteenth century, at the end of the Crusader presence, Construction began on the Sanctuary of Gethsemane, called the “rock of martyrdom”.
Pilgrim journals provide fairly accurate indications: “To the right of the road going up to Jerusalem,” for some, “Descending from the gate of the city,” for others. The gate, itself, is called that of “St. Stephen.”

After the blessing, those present enjoyed the now-famous hot chocolate at the Convent in Gethsemane.