The martyrdom of Saint Stephen is always a sudden break of the idyllic emotions of Christmas day. We awoke to the harsh reality that witness to Truth is a sacrifice.
I would like to read the scene of his martyrdom as the ‘sacrifice’ which we Christians all of us have to make in order to attain ‘spirituality’ or spiritual life. Spirituality can be defined that ‘extra-life’ on top of our routinely religious sentiments and deeds. We need to have an extra focus, an extra intent to ‘feel’ our deeds and payers. Without this, Christian life is just an ordinary life. Without the conscious effort to have ‘spirituality’, the church is without that extra life which God intended for us, our Lord’s disciples.
Stephen’s sufferings and death, his murder for his faith in Jesus as Saviour, highlights the value and the task, that Christians must go an extra mile. The Wisdom of the Tanya (written by the religious genius, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi /1745-1812/) prompts a healthy dialogue with us, Christians. In Chapter 38, he emphasises that the specific religious intent of a deed or religious act makes it alive. Through this conscious focus, we want to ‘feel’ and experience the good deed and our prayer. This experience of focus or feeling, by way of analogy, can be compared to the soul of the human being. Without this ‘extra’ of an intended spiritual life, the deeds are ‘dead’, they have no life. Routinely life and prayers are not enough. We need the conscious effort of discipleship; that of being disciples of Torah, or, in our case, Christians, of Jesus.
The Christmas crib, with its gentle devotions, and gentle lights, speak about the spirituality which we need to develop. The beauty of the Crib, with the new born Jesus, the Holy Family, and the surrounding visitors - Shepherds, animals, the three Kings - express the beauty of spiritual life. The scenes of our lives around the Crib come alive!
26 December 2017
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..