Today is the second day of the twelve days of Christmas. Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Stephen was one of several people appointed as Deacons of the Church by Peter and the apostles. Stephen was an effective proselytizer who drew the ire of the Sanhedrin, before whom Stephen was tried for for blasphemy against Moses and God (See Acts 6 and 7). Boldly declaring not merely his belief in Christ, but citing to a vision that he had of Christ at the right hand of God, the Sanhedrin voted, in 34 A.D., to execute him by stoning. Paul of Taursus, in the days before his own conversion, took part in the stoning. St. Stephen is the patron of stone masons, those with headaches, and horses. The Feast of St. Stephen was historically offered in honor of all Deacons of the Church.
The famous Christmas carol, Good King Wenceslaus, tells how the 10th century Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia, on one cold and snowy St. Stephen's Day, took it upon himself to bring alms to a poor man and his family.
St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, wrote a particularly poignant sermon in honor of the Feast of St. Stephen in about the year 500 A.D.:
Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of His soldier. Yesterday our King, clothed in His robe of flesh, left His place in the Virgin's womb and graciously visited the world. Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
Our King, despite His exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet He did not come empty-handed. He gave of His bounty, yet without any loss to Himself. In a marvelous way He changed into wealth the poverty of His faithful followers while remaining in full possession of His own inexhaustible riches. And so 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. 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 erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end.
My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.
May you have a happy Feast of St. Stephen.
Boxing Day is also celebrated in Britain this day. It originated in medieval times when the priests would empty the alms boxes in all churches on the day after Christmas and distribute the gifts to the poor of the parish. Moreover, the workers, apprentices, and servants stored their savings and donations through out the year in their own personal boxes made of earthen ware. Then, on the day after Christmas, the box was broken and the money counted,