Scripture Readings (KJV)
Hebrews 4.1-13 (Epistle)
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
4For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
8For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Acts 6.8-7.5, 47-60
(Epistle, St Stephen)
8And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
9Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.
10And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
11Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.
12And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,
13And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:
14For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
15And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
1Then said the high priest, Are these things so?
2And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,
3And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee.
4Then came he out of the land of the Chaldæans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.
5And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.
47But Solomon built him an house.
48Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
49Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
50Hath not my hand made all these things?
51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
52Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
54When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
55But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Mark 11.11-23 (Gospel)
11And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
12And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
15And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
16And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
17And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
18And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
19And when even was come, he went out of the city.
20And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.
21And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.
22And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
23For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
(Gospel, St Stephen)
33Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Holy First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
A kinsman of the Apostle Paul, the Holy Stephen was one of the seven deacons (with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas) first appointed by the Church to minister to the people; and it pleased God to receive him as the Church’s first Martyr for Christ. Read the long, beautiful and edifying account of his witness in the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6-8. When Stephen, “full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people,” (Acts 6:8), some members of a synagogue in Jerusalem came to dispute with him and, enraged by his proclamation of Christ, stoned him to death. In his death St Stephen revealed Christ’s erasure of the boundary between heaven and earth, and the new communion between man and God: his face shone with the light of the Transfiguration, and he was granted a vision of Christ enthroned at the Father’s right hand. His dying words were “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
According to holy tradition, the martyrdom of St Stephen occurred exactly a year after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His body was taken and secretly buried by Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhendrin and secretly a Christian.
Saint Stephen’s relics were discovered by the priest Lucian in 415 following a vision. They were translated to the church built for them in Jerusalem by the Empress Eudocia, and later taken to Constantinople.
The Saint’s missionary speech before his death (like that of the deacon St Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch) reminds us that those appointed to serve the Church materially are not barred, or even excused, from proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Christ.
Our Righteous Father Theodore the Branded, brother of St Theophanes the Hymnographer
See the account of his life on October 11, when his brother St Theophanes is Commemorated.