Martyrdom of St. Stephen, Bernardo Cavallino, Madrid, Spain
To be one with Christ in via, on the way, means to journey through darkness in other senses besides that of the obscurity of faith. The Door [who is Christ] opens on to life, but to life through death. Fons quasi sepultura est, says St. Ambrose, the font is like burial; the baptismal waters are the fountains springing up into the life which is eternal,” but “the font is tomb” as well as womb. By baptism, St. Paul tells us, we are buried with Christ in his death so as to be raised up like and with Christ into a new mode of existence.
For some, as for blessed Stephen, it is literally through the acceptance of physical death for and with and in Christ – a giving up of one’s life, whether in martyrdom or in some other mode of self-sacrifice, which is the final act of faith and love – that the heavens open and the Glory is seen. For most, it is the transfiguring effect of the various metaphorical forms of death or darkness they encounter on their way that brings the journey to its conclusion.
From The Eagle’s Word by Gerald Vann