September 25, 2022 - Tout 15, 1739
Transfer of the Body of St. Stephen the Archdeacon
We celebrate on this day the transfer of the body of St. Stephen the archdeacon and protomartyr. Very many years had passed since his martyrdom, more than three hundred. After the reign of Emperor Constantine and when noble worship has spread, St. Stephen, the Striver and martyr, appeared to Lucianus in the village where the honored body was buried and which was called the Village of Gamaliel, near Jerusalem. He appeared to him several times and told him his name and where his body was buried. That man went to the bishop of Jerusalem and informed him of what he had seen in his sleep. The bishop rose up and took him with two bishops and the people of the church and went to the place where the body was and when they dug the ground, a mighty earthquake took place. The coffin wherein the holy body was lying was revealed. There came out from it the odor of a magnificent spice. They heard voices of angels praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men. This praise was repeated three times and the bishops bowed down before the coffin. They carried it away in the midst of songs and hymns and candles until they came to Zion. And after this, a man whose name was Alexander and who was from Constantinople, built a church for St. Stephen in Jerusalem and placed the holy body in it.
Five years later, Alexander departed, and his wife buried him by the side of the coffin of the Saint. And eight years later, Alexander's wife decided to go to Constantinople and to take her husband's body with her. She came to the church, and she took the coffin wherein the body of St. Stephen had been laid thinking that it was the coffin wherein was her husband's body. She carried it away to Ascalon, and there she embarked with it in a ship to Constantinople. In the middle of the sea she heard singing and many praises coming from the coffin, and she marvelled exceedingly. She rose up and examined the coffin and she knew that it was the coffin wherein the body of St. Stephen, and this was the Will of God, so she gave thanks to the Lord and went on her way until she arrived in Constantinople.
Then she went to the King and informed him about what had happened. The King, the archbishop, priests and the people of the city went forth to the ship, and they carried the coffin on their heads to the royal palace. And both on the ship and in the royal palace, God made manifest many signs.
They laid the holy body in a palanquin carried by two mules, and when they came to a place called Constantinious, the two mules stopped. When they beat the mules, they did not move but they heard the voice of one of them saying, It is meet to place the Saint here. All those who saw and heard this marveled and they knew that He who had made the donkey of Balaam speak was He who had made this animal carrying the body of the Saint speak. The King ordered that a church be built for the Saint in that place. And they laid therein the pure gem, the holy body of St. Stephen, the apostle and the martyr. May his prayers and blessings be with us all, and Glory be to God forever. Amen.