December 26th in the liturgical calendar is the Feast of Stephen, or Saint Stephen, to some better known to his friends as “Steve.” Steve was one of the first seven men ordained by the Apostles as a Deacon. He gets a significant amount of press in the book of acts which includes the account of his sermon before he got stoned, not like in dope kind of stoned but as in crushed by heavy stones. Steve is known as the “proto-martyr” a fancy word for getting whacked for his faith before the other martyrs of the New Testament and the nearly 2000 years following. As a high school student in the 1970s I already was well acquainted with Stephen when I first attended a Conservative Baptist Sunday school class for the first time. This was back in the fall of 1975 and when asked to introduce myself I quipped “My name is Stephen and I got stoned.” This went over like a showing a Cheech and Chong movie to the Women’s Missionary Society. Of course I was a innocent of such things and too this day have never had any illicit drugs and while I have been a bit in the inebriated status I can never say that I have been stoned, even when put on Vicodin for the Undead Tooth of Terror.
The Feast of Steve is the second day in the twelve day “octave of Christmas.” Even if you know nothing about the liturgical calendar you probably heard the carol the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Likewise you may have heard the traditional English Carol “Good King Wenceslas” a King from Prague who happened to go out peasant hunting, or rather out looking to give alms to peasants and beggars. Either way you may have heard of this feast or the Octave of Christmas.
The Octave of Christmas begins on Christmas day and lasts until January 6th, in the West the Feast of the Epiphany but in the East the Orthodox Christmas. Thus we have the 12 days of Christmas in which time we hear about pipers milking maids listening to a bunch of infernal drummers while a bunch of pompous “lords” are leaping through gold rings held by more birds than you can shake a stick at and it’s not even hunting season. However, the song, which allegedly according to legend has secret meanings probably related to the Illuminati or at the minimum a worldwide conspiracy to promote some kind of decadent lifestyle. The actual twelve days of Christmas are a time of celebration which includes days dedicated to time off for peasants, celebration of the Incarnation and days honoring various saints, including the aforementioned Saint Steve. You might ask about other days within the Octave of Christmas which honor various saints….well I’m waiting…..
Yes I see that had. You want to know what other days in the Christmas Octave are named for saints. Well, as I said we have the 26th which is in honor of Saint Steve. The 27th is the Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist who penned the verse John 3:16 which used to be held up in the end zones of football games by some guy in a rainbow afro hairdo. The 28th is the feast of the Holy Innocents which is dedicated to the children of Bethlehem killed by King Herod in the attempt to kill Jesus after his birth. The 30h is that of Saint Thomas Beckett, and the 31st of December is that of Sylvester, an early Pope, not the cat who starred alongside Tweedy Bird. January 1st is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Roman calendar and the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus in the Anglican calendar. The 2nd is the feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church. In the Roman calendar the 3rd is dedicated to Most Holy Name of Jesus. There are some variations in the observations, for example Anglicans in England celebrate John Wycliffe the Bible translator on the 31st and the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus on the 1st of January, to which I understand the villiage Mohel gets an honorary invitation to attend. The Anglicans celebrate the Russian Monk Saint Saraphim of Sarov on the 2nd of January. Episcopalians ironically celebrate the life of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton the first American Roman Catholic Saint who before she was Roman had been an Episcopalian on the 4th of January. Anyway…you asked.
So, today was the celebration of Saint Steve, the Patron Saint of Padre Steve, aka me. Now my parents had no early idea about the liturgical calendar, if they had my name would be Rupert which I would have changed at the earliest opportunity had it been inflicted on me. Rupert whose feast is March 27th was the bishop of Salzburg Austria where the hills really are alive. Since I am sure that they did not name me after Saint Steve I presume that mercifully in order not to inflict me with one of the family names that are as bad as or worse than Rupert named me after the actor Steve McQueen. It was lucky for me that they did as like Stewie Griffin I would have to have plotted their demise as an infant. That would not have been pretty but I am sure that since I reportedly had a football shaped head for a while that I could have made this happen.
So have a blessed Octave of Christmas and be safe.