The Feast of the English Martyrs | Wednesday 4 May 2022

Today is Wednesday the 4th of May, the feast of the English Martyrs, in the third week of Easter.

The Choir of Portsmouth Cathedral sing, ‘Nearer My God To Thee’.

Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!


Today’s reading is from the Acts of the Apostles.

Acts 7:55-60

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

 

Today we commemorate two hundred and eighty four English martyrs, a representation of those who lost their lives in the Reformation period of the 16th and 17th centuries. People of faith, religious, clergy, and lay people who died because of religious persecution. The history of faith has some disturbing elements. What are your feelings at this sacrifice?

The martyrdom of Stephen is part of both the Christmas and Easter story. In a time of joy there is a thread of something darker. How does this speak to you?

 

As you listen to the reading again, notice that, despite the violence, the witness of Stephen echoes the sacrifice of Jesus.

Now in prayer, ask the Lord for whatever you need to follow Him.

 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.