About this icon
Saint Stephen, who is the first Christian martyr, wears a red cloak, the traditional iconic symbol of Christian martyrdom. With his left hand, Saint Stephen holds a golden container of incense which indicates his role as deacon together with his vestments. The image of the church held by Saint Stephen reminds us of his role in the beginning of the Christian Church.
Stephen's vestments reflect those of a deacon in the early Church.
As with all icons, we see that in "God, (the light), we live and move and have our very being" (Acts 17:28) NIV. This is indicated by the icon's gold background. In iconographic parlance, gold is not considered a color or pigment, but is likened to light itself. Since light is the very image of God's splendor, the radiance and luminosity of the icon reminds us of this core Christian belief.
The Icon of Saint Stephen: The Protomartyr
From many disciples the Apostles ordained seven deacons, including Stephen, to assist in caring for the less fortunate. While God worked many miracles through him, Stephen preached with such grace that many came to follow Jesus.
The success of Stephen's ministry dismayed the enemies of the Church, who bribed others to accuse him of blasphemy. Stephen confronted his accusers without fear, his face, "like the face of an angel." Stephen spoke bravely about Jesus, showing that He is the promised Savior and upbraiding the people for their unbelief. Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into Heaven, saying that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. At this, his detractors rushed him, dragged him outside the city of Jerusalem and began stoning him to death. Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Falling to his knees, the saint asked God not to punish his murderers and passed to his heavenly reward.
The feast day of Saint Stephen, the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown, is December 26.