September 26, 2020: SS. CYPRIAN AND JUSTINA
September 26, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF SS. CYPRIAN AND JUSTINA VIRGIN, MARTYRS
He who sought to ruin thee is now, O virgin Justina, thy trophy of victory; and for thee, O Cyprian, the path of crime turned aside into the way of salvation. May you together triumph over satan in this age, when spirit-dealing is seducing so many faltering, faithless souls. Teach Christians, after your example, to arm themselves, against this and every other danger, with the sign of the cross; then will the enemy be forced to say again: ‘I saw a terrible sign and I trembled; I beheld the sign of the Crucified, and my strength melted like wax.’
May these thy holy Martyrs, Cyprian and Justina, O Lord, be a continual protection to us, for thou wilt never let thy mercy be wanting to those, whom thou favourest with such assistance. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Let us read the following brief account of today's great Martyrs.
Cyprian, who was first a magician and afterwards a martyr, attempted, by charms and spells, to make Justina, a Christian virgin, consent to the passion of a certain young man. He consulted the devil as to the best way to succeed, and was told in reply that no art would be of any service to him against the true disciples of Christ. This answer made so great an impression on Cyprian, that, grieving bitterly over his former manner of life, he abandoned his magical arts, and was completely converted to the faith of Christ our Lord. Accused of being a Christian, he was seized together with the virgin Justina, and they were both severely scourged. They were then thrown into prison to see if they would change their mind; but on being taken out, as they remained firm in the Christian religion, they were cast into a cauldron of boiling pitch, fat, and wax. Finally they were beheaded at Nicomedia. Their bodies were left six days unburied; after which some sailors carried them secretly by night to their ship, and conveyed them to Rome. They were first buried on the estate of a noble lady named Rufina, but afterwards were translated into the city and laid in Constantine’s basilica, near the baptistery.
Another account of Ss. Cyprian and Justina.
St. Cyprian, surnamed the Magician, was an illustrious instance of the divine grace and mercy. He was a native of Antioch, (not the capital of Syria, but a small city of that name, situated between Syria and Arabia,) which the Romans allotted to the government of Phœnicia, to the jurisdiction of which province this martyr was subject. The detestable superstition of his idolatrous parents put them upon devoting him from his infancy to the devil, and he was brought up in all the impious mysteries of idolatry, judicial astrology, and black art. In hopes of making great discoveries in these infernal pretended sciences, he left his native country, when he was grown up, and travelled to Athens, Mount Olympus, in Macedon, Argos, Phrygia, Memphis, in Egypt, Chaldӕa, and the Indies, places at that time famous for superstition and magical arts.
There lived at Antioch, a young lady called Justina, whose birth and beauty drew all eyes upon her. She was born of heathen parents, but was brought over to the Christian faith, and her conversion was followed by that of her father and mother. A pagan young nobleman fell deeply in love with her, and finding her modesty inaccessible, and her resolution invincible, he applied to Cyprian for the assistance of his art. Cyprian was no less smitten with the lady than his friend, and heartily tried every secret with which he was acquainted to conquer her resolution. Justina, perceiving herself vigorously attacked, studied to arm herself by prayer, watchfulness, and mortification against all his artifices, and the power of his spells. “She defeated and put to flight the devils by the sign of the holy cross,” says Photius, from Eudocia. St. Cyprian writes in his confession, “she armed herself with the sign of Christ, and overcame the invocations of the demons.” St. Gregory Nazianzen adds, “Suppliantly beseeching the Virgin Mary that she would succour a virgin in danger, she fortified herself with the antidotes of fasting, tears, and prayers.” Cyprian finding himself worsted by a superior power, began to consider the weakness of the infernal spirits, and resolved to quit their service. The devil, enraged to lose one by whom he had made so many conquests of other souls, assailed Cyprian with the utmost fury, and, having been repulsed in several other assaults, he at length overspread the soul of the penitent sinner with a gloomy melancholy, and brought him almost to the brink of despair at the sight of his past crimes. God inspired him in this perplexity to address himself to a holy priest named Eusebius, who had formerly been his schoolfellow: by the advice of this priest he was wonderfully comforted and encouraged in his conversion. Cyprian, who, in the pressure of his heart, had been three days without eating, by the counsel of this charitable director took some refreshment, and, on the following Sunday, very early in the morning, was conducted by him to the assembly of the Christians; for though it was forbid for persons not initiated by baptism to assist at the celebration of the divine mysteries, this did not regard other devotions, to which such as were under instruction in the faith might be admitted. So much was Cyprian struck at the awful reverence and heavenly devotion with which this act of the divine worship was performed, that he writes of it, “I saw the choir of heavenly men, or of angels, singing to God, adding at the end of every verse in the psalms the Hebrew word Alleluia, so that they seemed not to be men.” Every one present was astonished to see Cyprian introduced by a priest among them, and the bishop was scarce able to believe his own eyes; or at least to be persuaded that his conversion was sincere. But Cyprian gave him a proof the next day by burning before his eyes all his magical books, giving his whole substance to the poor, and entering himself among the catechumens. After due instruction and preparation, he received the sacrament of regeneration from the hands of the bishop. St. Gregory Nazianzen beautifully describes the astonishing change that was wrought in Cyprian, his edifying deportment, his humility, modesty, gravity, love of God, contempt of riches, and assiduous application to heavenly things. The same father tells us, that, out of humility, with earnest entreaties, he prevailed to be employed as sweeper of the church. Eudocia, quoted by Pholius, says he was made door-keeper; but that, after some time, he was promoted to the priesthood, and, after the death of Anthimus the bishop, was placed in the episcopal chair of Antioch. Joseph Assemani thinks, not of Antioch, but of Damascus, or some other city in Syria.
The persecution of Dioclesian breaking out, Cyprian was apprehended and carried before the governor of Phœnicia, who resided at Tyre. Justina had retired to Damascus, her native country, which city at that time was subject to the same presidial; and falling into the hands of the persecutors, was presented to the same judge. She was inhumanly scourged, and Cyprian was torn with iron hooks, probably at Damascus. After this they were both sent in chains to Dioclesian, residing at Nicomedia, who, upon reading the letter of the governor of Phœnicia, without more ado, commanded their heads to be struck off: which sentence was executed upon the banks of the river Gallus, which passes not far from the city of Nicomedia. Theoctistus, also a Christian, was beheaded with them for speaking to Cyprian as he was going to execution. Their relics were procured by certain Christians who came from Rome, and were carried by them thither on board their vessel. In the reign of Constantine the Great, a pious lady, named Rufina, of the family of Claudius, built a church in their memory, near the square which bears the name of that prince. These relics were afterwards removed into the Lateran basilic.
If the errors and disorders of St. Cyprian show the degeneracy of human nature, corrupted by sin and enslaved to vice, his conversion displays the power of grace and virtue to repair it. How strangely the image of God is disfigured in man by sin appears by the disorders of his spiritual faculties, the understanding and will, in which the divine resemblance was stamped in the creation. Not only beasts and other creatures have revolted from his dominion, and the shattered frame of his body is made a prey to diseases and death, but his will is rebellious, and the passions strive to usurp the empire, and destroy in his soul the government of reason and virtue. Also the understanding, that should be the eye to the blind will, is itself blind, and the light within us is become darkness. In the state of innocence it was clear, serene, and free from the vapours of the passions; it directed the verdict of the imagination and the senses, and gave to the soul, by intuition and without study, a full view into all speculative natural truths suited to man's condition; but its most valuable privilege was, that it taught man all the practical rules and notions of moral virtue firm and untainted, so that he carried this law in his bosom, and had but to look into his own conscience for the direction of his actions in the practice of all moral virtue, which, by the strong assistance of grace, was always easy to him. His understanding was also enlightened by a perfect divine revelation, and his will found no obstacle in the exercises of all theological and other supernatural virtues. The most fatal consequence and punishment of his disobedience we deplore in the extravagances, folly, crimes, and errors into which men are betrayed when they become once enslaved to their passions. Religion and faith alone secure us from these dangers, enlighten our understanding, and offer us the means to restore the rectitude of the will.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
Ss. Cyprian and Justina, pray for us.