The Invention of St. Stephen or the Discovery of His Relics

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The Invention of St. Stephen or the Discovery of His Relics

THIS SECOND festival, in honour of the holy protomartyr St. Stephen, was instituted by the church on the occasion of the discovery of his precious remains. His body lay long concealed, whilst the glory of his sanctity shone both in heaven and on earth. The very remembrance of the place of his burial had been blotted out of the minds of men, and his relics lay covered under the ruins of an old tomb, in a place twenty miles from Jerusalem, called Caphargamala, that is, borough of Gamaliel, where stood a church which was served by a venerable priest named Lucian. In the year 415, in the tenth consulship of Honorius, and the sixth of Theodosius the Younger, on Friday the 3d of December, about nine o’ clock at night, Lucian was sleeping in his bed, in the baptistery, where he commonly lay, in order to guard the sacred vessels of the church. Being half awake, he saw a tall comely old man of a venerable aspect, with a long white beard, clothed in a white garment, edged with small plates of gold, marked with crosses, and holding a golden wand in his hand. This person approached Lucian, and calling him thrice by his name, bid him go to Jerusalem, and tell bishop John to come and open the tombs in which his remains, and those of certain other servants of Christ lay, that through their means God might open to many the gates of his clemency. Lucian asked his name? “I am,” said he, “Gamaliel, who instructed Paul the apostle in the law; and on the east side of the monument lieth Stephen who was stoned by the Jews without the north gate. His body was left there exposed one day and one night; but was not touched by birds or beasts. I exhorted the faithful to carry it off in the night-time, which when they had done, I caused it to be carried secretly to my house in the country, where I celebrated his funeral rites forty days, and then caused his body to be laid in my own tomb to the eastward. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, lieth there in another coffin. He was excommunicated by the Jews for following Christ, and banished out of Jerusalem. Whereupon I received him into my house in the country, and there maintained him to the end of his life; after his death I buried him honourably near Stephen. I likewise buried there my son Abibas, who died before me at the age of twenty years. His body is in the third coffin which stands higher up, where I myself was also interred after my death. My wife Ethna, and my eldest son Semelias, who were not willing to embrace the faith of Christ, were buried in another ground, called Capharsemalia.” Lucian, fearing to pass for an impostor if he was too credulous, prayed, that if the vision was from God, he might be favoured with it a second and a third time; and he continued to fast on bread and water. On the Friday following Gamaliel appeared again to him in the same form as before, and commanded him to obey. As emblems of the relics he brought and showed Lucian four baskets, three of gold and one of silver. The golden baskets were full of roses; two of white and one of red roses; the silver basket was full of saffron of a most delicious smell. Lucian asked what these were? Gamaliel said: “They are our relics. The red roses represent Stephen, who lieth at the entrance of the sepulchre; the second basket Nicodemus, who is near the door; the silver basket represents my son Abibas, who departed this life without stain; his basket is contiguous to mine.” Having said this he disappeared. Lucian then awaked, gave thanks to God, and continued his fasts. In the third week, on the same day, and at the same hour, Gamaliel appeared again to him, and with threats upbraided him with his neglect, adding, that the drought which then afflicted the world, would be removed only by his obedience, and the discovery of their relics. Lucian being now terrified, promised he would no longer defer it. 1 Continue reading