St. Stephen’s Gate – A Rocky Place

On this Feast of Stephen, December 26, my mind travels back to a pilgrimage to Israel-Palestine, and an afternoon in Jerusalem.

Our group had some free time to wander through the old city. I was amazed at the open air markets, but I’m not a shopper, so I went in search of another place that might take me away from the crowds and to someplace with an outside view.

I found myself on the eastern edge of the walled city, and to one of the gates leading to the outside. My memory may be somewhat challenged, as this trip is twenty years in the past. I do clearly remember the gate: St. Stephen’s.

Many children learn of St. Stephen by singing the Christmas carol, Good King Wencelaus. The first verse directs us to know that the good king “looked out, on the feast of Stephen,” now celebrated in the Western Christian Church on December 26 every year.

As I recall, as soon as I went through the gate, I stopped and admired the view. The gate was, as I recall, along the eastern wall of the old part of Jerusalem. That wall sits on a steep slope that descends to the Kidron Valley, and in clear view across to the Mount of Olives and, near the bottom of the mountain, what Christians know and revere as the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent his last night with his apostles on the day before his execution, or crucifixion.

After crossing over the threshold of this gate, the path suddenly becomes rocky and steep. I was not stepping carefully, and so I slid on a stone and ended up on my behind. Not an injurious accident, merely a scrape on one of my hands.

If indeed the first martyr and first deacon of the Christian church was tortured to death by stoning at this very place as a punishment for his faith, then my slight injury was a reminder of what blessed Stephen went through at the hands of a furious mob who saw belief in Christ to be treasonous.

Bless you Stephen. I’m proud to carry your name, and a tiny bit of blood that I left at your gate mingled with your much more copious offering. Thank you for your witness and courage.

 

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