Finding of the Body of St Stephen, Proto-Martyr: Missa “Sederunt príncipes”
This second festival in honour of the holy protomartyr Saint Stephen was instituted by the Church on the occasion of the discovery of his precious remains. His body had long lain concealed under the ruins of an old tomb in Caphargamala, a place twenty miles from Jerusalem, where there was a church served by a venerable priest named Lucian.
In the year 415, on the 3rd of December, the priest was sleeping on his cot in the baptistry, where he habitually retired in order to guard the sacred vessels of the church. Being half awake, he saw a tall, comely old man of venerable aspect, clothed in white and gold, who approached him and called him by his name three times, bidding him go to Jerusalem and tell Bishop John to come and open the tombs where his remains and those of certain other servants of Christ lay. This act would permit God to open the gates of His clemency to many souls, the visitor affirmed. Lucian asked his name, and he replied, I am Gamaliel, who instructed Saint Paul in the Law. Gamaliel then said they would also find the tomb of Saint Stephen, protomartyr, and of Nicodemus, who came to visit Jesus at night and who, when driven out of Jerusalem by the authorities, had been sheltered by himself in his country residence at the present site. This vision was twice repeated, and on the third visit, the priest was reproached for his delay. He was promised that the discovery would cause a current famine to cease.
After the third vision, Lucian went to Jerusalem and laid the whole affair before Bishop John, who directed him to go and search himself for these relics. And Gamaliel appeared again, this time to a holy monk of the same region, to indicate the exact site where the inhabitants of the village should dig. There indeed were found three coffins or chests with the respective names engraved on them; and without opening these, Lucian sent immediately to acquaint Bishop John with the discovery. The bishop was at the Council of Diospolis, and, taking with him the bishops of Sebastis and of Jericho, he journeyed to Caphargamala.
Upon the opening of Saint Stephen’s coffin the earth trembled, and there came from the coffin an agreeable scent. There was at that moment a vast multitude of people assembled at the burial place, among whom were many persons afflicted with various maladies; seventy-three recovered their health instantly. They kissed the holy relics, and then the chests were closed again. The bishop left the relics of Gamaliel and Nicodemus for the village, and consented to leave a small portion of Saint Stephen’s relics there; then, amid the singing of psalms and hymns, the rest of them were carried to the Church of Sion in Jerusalem. They were later transferred to a magnificent church built in his honor in that city, towards the end of the fifth century. The greater part of the relics are presently in Rome.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9
INTROIT Psalm 118: 95-96
Princes sat, and spoke against me; and the wicked persecuted me: help me, O Lord my God, for Thy servant was employed in Thy justifications. (Ps. 118: 1) Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. v. Glory be…etc
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to imitate what we worship, that we may learn to love our enemies also; for we celebrate the finding of him who knew how to pray even for his persecutors to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. Who with Thee livest and reignest, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
Collect of the Souls
From all perils of soul and body defend us, O Lord, we beseech thee, and by the intercession of blessed and glorious ever Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of blessed Joseph, of thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of blessed N. and all the Saints, graciously grant us safety and peace that all adversities and errors being overcome, thy Church may serve thee in security and freedom
for the Pope
O God, the shepherd and ruler of all the faithful, graciously look upon thy servant Francis, who thou hast willed to be chief pastor of thy Church; grant him we beseech thee, by word and example to profit those over whom he rules, that together with the flock entrusted to him, he may attain to life everlasting. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59
Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. In those days, Stephen,, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people. Now there arose some of that which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit that spoke. Now hearing these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed with their teeth at him. But he being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to Heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. And they crying out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and with one accord ran violently upon him. And casting him forth without the city, they stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul, And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 118: 23, 86, 117
Princes sat, and spoke against me; and the wicked persecuted me. V. Help me, O Lord, my God: save me for Thy mercy’s sake. Alleluia, Alleluia. V. (Acts 7: 56) I see the heavens opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of the power of God. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 23: 34-39
At that time, Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees. “Behold I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them you will put to death and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate. For I say to you, you shall not see Me henceforth till you say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Acts 6: 5; 7: 59
The apostles chose Stephen, a levite, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, whom the Jews stoned, praying and saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Alleluia.
Receive our gifts, O Lord, for the commemoration of Thy saints, that, as suffering hath made them glorious, so devotion may render us blameless. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever.
Of the souls
Hear us, O God, our salvation that through the power of this Sacrament thou mayest defend us from all enemies of soul and body and bestow upon us grace here and glory hereafter.
for the Pope
Look down favourably, O Lord, we beseech thee, upon the gifts we have offered: and let thy constant protection direct thy servant Francis, whom thou hast chosen to be the chief pastor of the Church. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Acts 7: 56, 59, 60
I see the Heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the right hand of the power of God: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and lay not this sin to their charge.
May the mysteries we have received aid us, O Lord; and by the intercession of blessed Stephen, Thy martyr, may they confirm us in Thine everlasting protection. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever.
Of the souls
May the offering of this divine Sacrament cleanse and protect us, O Lord we beseech thee, and by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of blessed Joseph, of thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of blessed N. and all the Saints, may it purify us from all sin, and free us from all adversity.
for the Pope
Let the reception of this divine Sacrament protect us, O Lord, we beseech theee: and may thy servant Francis, whom thou has chosen as the chief pastor of thy Church, along with the flock committed to him derive always from it protection and help. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen.