Martyrdom: Death and Resurrection
Martyrdom means witness. But to bear witness to Christ to the point of death is to become one who has risen again. Christian martyrdom is a mystical experience, the first attested in the history of the Church. It is recorded right at the beginning by the example of Stephen the ‘protomartyr’ in the Acts of the Apostles thus: [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened. And the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” … Then they cast him out of the city and they stoned him; And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he said this, he fell asleep, (Acts 7. 55-60). Vision of glory … prayer for the executioners… when history comes full circle and another witness is put to death, this very death ‘opens the heavens’ and allows the energies of love to make their entry into the world.