On the twenty-eighth of this month [November], we commemorate our Holy Father and Confessor Stephen the New.
You head was wounded by a club Stephen the New,
Finding ready a crown that was not old.
On the twenty-eighth the head of Stephen the New was broken.
The much-contested confessor Stephen lived during the reign of Emperor Anastasios II, who was also called Artemios (713-715), and when Germanos I (715-730) was Patriarch. He was born and raised in the Queen of Cities, and was the son of Christian parents John and Anna. At a young age he occupied himself with sacred letters, and every day abided in the Church of God with his mother, occupying himself with fasting and hard work. For this reason he was garbed in the monastic schema when he was around sixteen years of age. After this he gave himself over to even more spiritual struggles, fighting off all the wicked desires of the body. Not much time passed when the divinely ineffable John, the holy abbot, reposed in peace. Wherefore the blessed Stephen was entrusted with the care of the abbacy on the famous mountain of Saint Auxentios. There he struggled in the arena of asceticism.
Because the weed-sowing devil wanted to raise up a great war and heresy against the Church, so that the holy and revered icons would not be venerated, the first to conduct this war and heresy was Leo the Isaurion (717-741), whose original name was Konon. He departed this life, having been turned away and sufficiently rebuked by the Holy Patriarch Germanos. His inhuman and mischievous child Constantine Copronymos (741-775) became emperor, and he did greater evils than his father, waging war against and trampling on the Church of Christ, burning the holy icons, exiling the monastics, and punishing them with various torments.
Thus the sinful one, when he learned about Saint Stephen, that he venerated the holy icons, and called the emperor a heretic for not venerating the revered icons, and was not persuaded by him, nor suffered to sign on to his heresy, so I say when the irreverent one heard of this, he sent his soldiers to have him brought to him. After disciplining him with various torments, he was imprisoned in the Praetorium, in which other monastics were imprisoned. There were the chosen and elected gathered together from various places regarding the issue of the holy icons, and they were numbered forty-two. Along with these were the most-venerable Peter and Andrew and three hundred with them. On behalf of the holy icons, some of these had their noses cut off, others their ears, others their hands and beards, and some had their eyes plucked out.
When the blessed Stephen found all of these in prison, he kissed them all, and incited them in their struggles, and undertook every monastic service and appointment while in prison, just as it is done in a monastery. When the emperor learned that the prison of the Praetorium had become a monastery by means of Stephen, he ordered that the Saint be removed from prison after being there for eleven months. Standing before him, it was ordered that he be thrown to the ground, where he was struck with stones and beaten with clubs. One murderous and wild-minded man, taking a club, struck him in the head, and in this way he was killed, which split his holy head in two by this strike, and in this way he delivered his holy soul into the hands of God, and received the crown of his confession.
The other executioners dragged his honorable relic dead and naked to the marketplace. Thus his honorable hands and legs were smashed after being struck here and there with stones, and his nails came out of his fingers. One inhuman man, wanting to further please the emperor, took a large rock and threw it at the holy relic, ripping open the stomach, so that the bowels spilled out onto the ground. And a peddlar took a piece of wood from the fire, and struck at the head of the holy relic, completely separating it into two pieces, causing his brain to spill on the ground. Then the honorable relic of the Saint was cast into the sea, and was later buried by certain reverent Christians, in the place where he is still today.
On this day we also commemorate Saint Andrew, who was dragged along the ground on behalf of the veneration of the holy icons, and he was perfected.
By the earth he was made and by the earth killed.
I honor the images of those made of Andrew.
Saint Peter, having been beaten on behalf of the holy icons, was perfected.
If Peter is beaten on behalf of the icons,
His flesh is found to be as rock.
Venerable Anna, beaten for speaking on behalf of Saint Stephen, was perfected.
Anna was scourged and vigorously beaten,
Christ displayed a fitting crown.
Commemoration of the Holy Martyrs who were martyred with Saint Stephen on behalf of the holy icons.
Stephen had many fellow contestants,
An upright chorus gathered in delight.
Many of the soldiers of Emperor Copronymos, being Orthodox, denied the world and became monks. The lawless emperor punished them, and removed them from this life.
One of them, who was called Basil, he first blinded, and then being unable to get him to deny the veneration of holy icons, he was kicked in the stomach, which caused his bowels to spill out. In this way the renowned one delivered his soul into the hands of God.
Another one imprisoned was called Sosthenios, who was previously called Stenis, who had his nose cut off and after was exiled to Cherson, commonly called Crimea. When the tyrant was going to have him killed, he fled to Khazaria, and became a Bishop there, and later reposed.
And another, called Stephen, was exiled to Sougdaia (Suroz or Sudak), and there he brought benefit to many people, and his life came to an end.
And John who was from Legatarion, was exiled to Daphnousia. Being often dragged at the order of the emperor, his life came to an end.
In such ways they all received the crown of martyrdom.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Trained on the mountain in ascetical labours, with the whole armour of the Cross thou didst vanquish the spiritual arrays of unseen enemies; and when thou hadst stripped thyself with great courage for contest, thou didst slay Copronymus with the sword of the true Faith. For both these things hast thou been crowned by God, O venerable Martyr, blest Stephen of great renown.
Another Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou didst live a holy and ascetic life, and didst become a vessel of prayer. Through thy reverence for the Icon of Christ, thou wast found worthy of the joy of martyrs. O holy Stephen, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
With songs and hymns, O ye feast-lovers, let us all extol the godly Stephen, that great lover of the Trinity, for he honoured with his whole heart the comely image of the Master, of His Mother, and of all the Saints. Now with one accord, with longing, and with joy of heart, let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Father most glorious.