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Lord, do not charge them with this sin

0D2BDF5D-F90D-4288-950B-C2100678A9A5On this day we celebrate the memory of Saint Stephen – Apostle, Archdeacon and First Martyr. Saint Stephen was a young man, one of the seven deacons chosen by the apostles to help them in the service of God and for the distribution of gifts. In regard to St. Stephen the Holy Scriptures in the Acts of Apostles says: “The multitude chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch; Whom they presented before the apostles, and when the apostles had prayed, they laid their hands on them. … ‘And Stephen, full of faith and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.’ ‘Then there arose some people and began disputing with Stephen; but they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. When they heard this they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. And Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand side of God, and said: “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Then they cried out with a loud voice, they closed their ears, and ran at him with one accord and threw themselves at him. They cast him out of the city, and they began to throw stones at him, and the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul; and as they stoned Stephen, he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice: “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And when he said this, he fell asleep (he died).” The Holy Fathers associate his memory with the gospel readings of the parable of the vinedressers to whom the Master gave them everything they needed in order to present to Him a good harvest (fruits), but those possessed by the passion of self-love, first killed the servants who He sent, and then they killed the Heir of the Vineyard in order to impound His inheritance (His property). But, in the end, the Master destroyed them and took away the vineyard from them. (Matt. 21: 33-42) One of those servants who were killed by the irresponsible vinedressers is Saint Stephen, the First Martyr and Archdeacon. More precisely, the high priests and Jewish elders (leaders) who were supposed to first of all, recognise the Saviour in the Person of Jesus Christ, possessed by their self-love, did not receive Him and yet they killed Him. Saint Stephen gave them a wonderful speech (homily), pointing out their fallacy (misconception) through examples from the Scriptures. However, instead of repenting and becoming aware of their delusion (self-aware), possessed by their own ego, filled with self-love, being egoistic, vainglorious, proud, self-assured, and with high regards of themselves; dissected by the truth, they felt ashamed and as usual, they blame others and never acknowledge their guilt. They accuse Stephen as “blasphemer”. Therefore, they want to get rid of the one who with his own life dissects (manifests their delusion and guilt) them and they are ready to destroy and kill him. Pride, vanity, or high opinion of ourselves, that is, the ego, is the greatest obstacle in the spiritual life and life in general. The ego darkens the mind and imprisons the heart of man, making the mind blind and the heart numb. It is like a beam that does not let us to bow down and subdue, and for us therefore, the doors are closed for the grace of God and for the Kingdom of Heaven, where the doors are narrow and low, and only the submissive and the broken-hearted (remorseful, repentant) people are entering. The egoist thinks only of himself, and the humble one thinks for all. Such a man (egoist) is a very lonely man, because in his heart there is only “I” and there is no room for another. But in the church “I” cannot be without “You.” Only through communion in love with others can we become self-aware and we can shape ourselves as a persons. Humility, on the other hand, is the foundation for every virtue, the beginning and the peak of the perfection. When Saint Stephen, according to the example of his Lord, humbled himself, his heart was cleansed completely. It was filled with grace and love, thus he did not feel anger at all, but on the contrary, he felt sorry for them and prayed to the Lord not to charge them with this sin. Saint Stephen, for whom God came first, humbled and with a broken heart, was not afraid to confess Christ and tell the truth, even at the cost of his life. He did not live for this world, but for the one which is promised to us and which is eternal. He did not seek human justice, but God’s. Therefore, he did not hesitate publicly to confess the Truth and to denounce (dissect) the delusional people. While he was opening to God completely, the heavens opened up to him and he saw the glory of God and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Therefore, if we want to possess the gifts of the Holy Spirit and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, it is necessary, to love God with all our heart, the same way as Saint Stephen; with all our soul, with all our mind and to love our neighbour (fellow men) as ourselves, and not to be like proud people to live for ourselves only and to close ourselves inside ourselves, and consequently not to have place in our hearts for God and for our neighbour.

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