Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saints Cyprian and Justina

The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers (published by Holy Apostles Convent, 1991) contains the interesting story of Saints Cyprian and Justina; they are commemorated on September 26 in the old calendar of the Latin rite. I especially like the story that takes place at the beginning of their relationship, and will reproduce it here, paraphrasing and quoting extensively from the book just mentioned; all emphases are mine.

St. Cyprian was anything but a saint in the beginning! He was a “magus” – a magician – “a philosopher who attained the pinnacle in the practice of the magic arts”. He knew “all the infernal arts of idolatry, astrology, and black magic”, and he conjured up demons to do his dirty work.

Justina, originally named Justa, was born into a pagan family, but “came to believe that there was only one true God. With this conviction taking root in her soul, the virgin struggled to keep herself pure in both body and soul.” As a result, she brought her parents to Christ as well.

A wealthy nobleman, Aglaidas, came to know of Justa, and was “smitten by her beauty”; Justa, however, refused his advances. Aglaidas was not known for his self-control, and he pursued Justa ever more ardently, to the point of attempting to take her by force. Her cries at that point summoned her relatives, and Aglaidas fled from the armed protectors.

Knowing of Cyprian’s skill in the dark arts, Aglaidas enlisted the magician’s aid in order to win the beautiful Justa as his wife, promising him wealth in return for the favor. The Spiritual Lives tells us that “straightway, Cyprian conjured one of the wicked demons who he often invoked to bring about shameless and unholy deeds.” The satanic instructions were carried out, but

…The virgin Justa arose at the third hour of night, as was her custom, to say her prayers. She sensed a burning sensation in her inward parts and understood it to be a temptation. To extinguish the flame of desire, she constrained herself to utter [several verses of Scripture]…Justina then made the sign of the Cross, an awesome, dreadful, and unbearable weapon against the demon, from which it took flight.

With great humiliation and fear, the demon returned to Cyprian, quite ashamed that he had been vanquished. However, when Cyprian examined the demon, though not wishing to say the truth, the demon was compelled to say, “I tell thee that I beheld a certain sign and was greatly frightened, for I could not endure Its might!”

The Blessed Virgin Mary treads the SerpentCyprian disdained that demon, and quickly summoned another demon who was more 
powerful. Justa, though vigorously assailed, armed herself with prayer, vigilance, and mortification against all demonic artifices and the power of spells. She supplicated the Virgin Mary that she find succor in this hour of peril. In like manner, therefore, the same plight befell this demon as the first.

Cyprian conjured a third demon, the chief and leader of the others, who told him to take courage. Therefore, the third demon, more knavish than the others, went to the maiden’s home in the guise of a woman [and tempted her to leave her commitment to virginity and purity by various words]…Justa recognized the deceit of the demon. She then prayed and made the sign of the Cross, which repudiated and cast out the demon.

[The demon told Cyprian]... “Wherever there is the image of the sign of the Cross, the demons, trembling and restrained, then retreat.” When the shrewd Cyprian heard this, he became more astute, and despised the demons. Worsted by a superior power, straightway, he, too, desired to turn from deceit and believe in Christ… [Enraged at losing this magician]…the devil assailed Cyprian and began beating and strangling him. The penitent sinner repulsed the attack when he brought to mind the sign of the Cross, by which Justa successfully overcame demonic audacity. Thus, he cried out, “O God of Justa, help me!” He then managed to make the sign of the Cross, and the devil fled.

I love this story!

There is more, of course – Cyprian was converted and baptized, and was ordained a priest within a year; he was made a bishop soon after that. He tonsured Justa and gave her the name Justina. They were martyred together.

I quoted the story above, though, because of the lesson of the sign of the Cross. How many times do I make the sign of the Cross every day without even realizing the power it holds!

To me the story speaks of the power of the sign of the Cross combined with supplication to the Blessed Virgin Mary – how can we fail against the demons with such powerful weapons!

And let’s not forget that St. Joseph is known as the “terror of demons”!

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