Archive E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

“Look Steadfastly Up into Heaven”: The Collect for the Protomartyr

It is not, of course, problematic from a Protestant point of view to remember with gratitude the example of holy men and martyrs. Indeed, it is meet and right so to do. After all, Hebrews 11 does the same.

To that end, here is the Collect for December 26, the day that in the West conventionally marks Stephen’s martyrdom as recounted in the Book of Acts, from the Order of Worship for the Reformed Church in the United States.

It is placed immediately after Christmas, the editors state, “to symbolize the idea that the terrestrial birth of our Savior is immediately followed by the death, that is, the celestial birth, of his martyrs” (40). As the Epistle reading for the day, they give Acts 6.8; 7.60: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. And 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.”

The prayer is a prayer of mercy, by which we ask God for his grace to follow Stephen’s example in forgiving our debtors, and even our enemies.

The Collect

AS WE honor on this day, O Lord God, the memory of thy blessed martyr, St. Stephen, grant unto us grace, we beseech thee, to follow his faith and charity; that however sorely tried by the contradiction of sinners, we may be able, like him, to look steadfastly up into heaven, and to commend even our enemies to the pardoning mercy of our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ: to whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.