Martyrdom day of St. Stephen

St. Stephen's Day

January 8th is the Martyrdom day of St. Stephen, the chief of deacons and the first Christian martyr. The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which means “servant”. In the Christian Church, a deacon is believed to be a “servant of the church”. In the Malankara Syrian Orthodox faith, deacons assist the priests when they administer the Holy Sacraments.
The origination of this office can be traced back to the early church in the Book of Acts when seven men were selected to serve the church. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:2,3). When they were chosen, they set them before the apostles and when they had prayed they laid hands on them (Acts 6:6). Thus the apostles stipulated the following three conditions for nominating deacons: They must be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom; they should be appointed by the apostles through the laying on of hands with prayers; and they should carry out certain responsibilities in the church.
St. Paul also specified the requirements of a deacon, in I Timothy 3:8-9: “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience”. In the Syrian Orthodox tradition, six ranks of deaconate are specifically assigned with particular duties. However, the roles and duties attached with the ranks are no more significant in the Malankara tradition. The ranks are of more traditional and in the modern church. A deacon’s responsibility is to help the priest or bishop during the Holy Sacraments. Usually, deacons sermonize the congregation. St. Stephen’s day is a special day where a full-deacon is also allowed to read the Evengalion (The Holy Gospel) during the Holy Qurbana or Prayers.