Seeing the Son of Man in Heaven, St. Stephen Testified Humanity Is There

Seeing the Son of Man in Heaven, St. Stephen Testified Humanity Is There December 26, 2019

A human in heaven! Oh my God!

Carved stone image of the stoning of St. Stephen to death for upholding that a human now lived in heaven.
Pediment on front door of church depicting the martyrdom of St. Stephen, Jules Thomas sculptor. Photographer unknown but probably Charles Marville / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

 

St. Stephen’s testimony and martyrdom are in the Book of Acts, chapter 7.

 

I received the saint’s original Greek name, “Stephanos,” when I made vows as a monk in 1983.

So, celebrating the feasts of Christ’s birth and St. Stephen’s martyrdom back-to-back is dramatically personal for me.

On Christmas Day we gape at God’s birth on earth as a human baby.

Then, we awaken the following day to gape into heaven with Stephen, seeing the same human baby up there: having fully grown, died, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.

“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

I don’t know why Stephen’s judges, jury and executioners held back while he mouthed the Bible’s longest unbroken speech.

It only became too much for them when he said a human was where only God should be.

But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to 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.”

But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.

“Son of Man” was a strange and rare utterance.

Only three persons in the New Testament used it: Christ in the Gospel, Stephen in the Book of Acts, and John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation.

And all three used it in reference to Christ alone.

“Son.” The New Testament Greek uses here the word for a male offspring.

“Man.” Here the Greek uses the word for “human,” not necessarily a male.

So, the utterance “Son of Man” calls attention to the real humanity of Christ.

It has the force of saying: “He Who Was Born a Human.”

Stephen gave witness that a human is now at hand as God in heaven.

Our celebration of Christmas Day back-to-back with the Martyrdom of Stephen draws the full circle of the mystery of Christ:  we gape at divinity born human on earth, and we gape at humanity arisen divine in heaven.

“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

The Eucharist draws the same circle:  God Born as Our Flesh and Blood on Earth; Our Flesh and Blood as God in Heaven.

So then, in the Eucharist also, we can join Stephen in testifying: “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

In his Eucharistic Flesh and Blood, God gives himself to us.

With Stephen’s words we circle around to give ourselves back to God in the Eucharist: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Let us make that our prayer when we are dying, but let us make it also the prayer of our living.

Along the way, let the Spirit of Jesus open us to help the poor, as the apostles of Jesus chose Stephen to do, because that is another way our lives must say, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Turn. Love. Repeat.


Dear Readers of “Turn. Love. Repeat.”
California where I reside had a new law go into effect on January 1, 2020. California Assembly Bill 5 forbids freelance writers, editors and photographers from providing more than 35 content submissions to a media organization per year unless the organization hires the freelancer as a salaried employee. Patheos is a media organization, and I am a freelancer. So now I must limit my posts to 35 per year, or 1 post about every 10 days. So as not to exceed my limit here at Patheos, I will post my “extra” pieces at my own blog, Monk Notes.


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