Holidays often mean outings and so, should you go visiting churches and museums, you might well come across images of St Stephen: you’ll know it’s him because he’ll be holding a stone. He is venerated as the protomartyr of Christianity, and on the day when we often need to beef up the leftovers of yesterday’s dinner, it’s quite amazing to discover that he used to work distributing food to the poor from the kitchens of Jerusalem. So, if yesterday’s light came to fill the hearts of people, this young man was the first to roll up his sleeves to keep that light burning.
Alas, it’s a story that doesn’t have a happy ending. Yet at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan we came across a painting where Stephen is holding a palm, symbolising his martyrdom, from which the bud of a new fruit seems to be sprouting. Whether one is a believer or not, the message inherent to this image is quite clear. As for us, we can always use some delicious ‘first fruits’ for our Christmas decorations.