On Saturday (December 25) the Armenian Church commemorates St. Stephen, the first deacon and proto-martyr. After Christ’s ascension, the apostles went about spreading the Word. It soon became apparent that more people were needed to serve the growing church community. Seven worthy individuals were called upon to serve the Holy Altar and called “deacons” (sarkavag). The most noteworthy of the seven was Stephen, described as a “man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). The Feast of St. Stephen is a popular and important commemoration in the Armenian Church; it is a day to honor all deacons of the church. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church and is therefore called the “proto-martyr.” The only information about his life and death is in the Book of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:8 and 8:2).

You who were chosen for ministry, becoming worthy of the apostolic preaching, St. Stephen, intercede for us to Christ.
You who beseeched forgiveness for those who stoned you, St. Stephen, now pray to the One who sits on the right hand of the Father for us who are pilgrims (from life to life).
You who became worthy of the first to receive the crown of martyrdom, the first among all witnesses, intercede for us to the Crowner of the saints.

(Hymn to St. Stephen, from the liturgical canons of the Armenian Church)

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