Sermon of St. Fulgentius, Bishop
Yesterday we were celebrating the birth in time of our Eternal King; to-day we celebrate the victory, through suffering, of one of His soldiers. Yesterday our King was pleased to come forth from His royal palace of the Virgin’s womb, clothed in a robe of flesh, to visit the world; to-day His soldier, laying aside the tabernacle of the body, entereth in triumph into the heavenly palaces. The One, preserving unchanged that glory of the Godhead which He had before the world was, girded Himself with the form of a servant, and entered the arena of this world to fight sin; the other taketh off the garments of this corruptible body, and entereth into the heavenly mansions, where he will reign for ever. The One cometh down, veiled in flesh; the other goeth up, clothed in a robe of glory, red with blood.
The One cometh down amid the jubilation of angels; the other goeth up amid the stoning of the Jews. Yesterday the holy angels were singing, Glory to God in the highest; to-day there is joy among them, for they receive Stephen into their company. Yesterday the Lord came forth from the Virgin’s womb; to-day His soldier is delivered from the prison of the body. Y’esterday Christ was for our sakes wrapped in swaddling bands; to – day He girdeth Stephen with a robe of immortality. Yesterday the new-born Christ lay in a narrow manger; to-day Stephen entereth victorious into the boundless heavens. The Lord came down alone that He might raise many up; our King humbled Himself that He might set His soldiers in high places.
Why brethren, it behoveth us to consider with what arms Stephen was able, amid all the cruelty of the Jews, to remain more than conqueror, and worthily to attain to so blessed a triumph. Stephen, in that struggle which brought him to the crown whereof his name is a prophecy, had for armour the love of God and man, and by it he remained victorious on all hands. The love of God strengthened him against the cruelty of the Jews; and the love of his neighbour made him pray even for his murderers. Through love he rebuked the wandering, that they might be corrected; through love he prayed for them that stoned him, that they might not be punished. By the might of his love he overcame Saul his cruel persecutor; and earned for a comrade in heaven, the very man who had done him to death upon earth.
From the Office of Matins according to the Benedictine Use