First Martyr Stephen honored on January 9
According to the Julian Calendar, on the third day after Christmas, January 9, the memory of the first martyr Stephen is honored. The Eastern Church glorifies St. Stephen in its services and grants him a triple title, that of apostle, first martyr, and archdeacon. St. Stephen is one of the 70 apostles who are commemorated on January 17.
The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6, 8-7, 5. 47-60) describe him as "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit ... full of grace and strength, worked wonders and great signs among the people." St. John Chrisostom ranks St. Stephen among the apostles: "Tell me what he lacked to be equal to the apostles? Did he not work wonders? Did he not show great courage?" (Discussion 15).
St. Stephen is not only a zealous apostle but also the first martyr. He was accused by false witnesses before the Synedrion and courageously recognized the Christian faith. Because of that, he was stoned outside the town. It happened 34 or 35 years after the birth of Christ. As well as Christ, he prayed for his enemies before his death. Young Saul, who later became the Apsotle Paul, participated in the killing.
St. Archdeacon Stephen died a death of a martyr at the age of 30. His body was left to wild animals. In 415, the body was found and moved to Jerusalem where it was reburied in the temple on the Mount Zion. Later, the wife of a Byzantine Emperor Theodosius, Eudoxia, built a majestic church in his honor at the place of his death.