Saints Kyprianos (Cyprian) and Youstina (Justina)
by Church Heroes Series
On this mountain, Kyprianos studied all kinds of diabolical arts. He learned how to transform himself into other forms; change the nature of the air; bring up winds; produce thunder and rain; disturb the waves of the sea; cause damage to gardens, vineyards and fields; send diseases and plagues upon people; and, in general, he mastered all kinds of evil activity. At Mount Olympus, Kyprianos saw many legions of demons, with the prince of darkness at their head; some demons stood before Satan, others served him, others cried out in praise of their prince, and some were sent into the world in order to corrupt people. Kyprianos also saw the pagan gods and goddesses in their false forms, and he learned to call up all kinds of demons.
When Kyprianos was fifteen years old, he began to receive lessons from seven famous sorcerers and learned many demonic secrets. Then he went to the city of Argos, where, having served the false goddess Juno for a time, he learned many practices of deception from her priests. He also lived in Taurapolis (on the island of Icara) in the service of the false goddess Diana; and from there he went to Sparta, where he learned how to call the dead from their graves and to force them to speak by means of various incantations and spells. At the age of twenty, Kyprianos went to Egypt, and in the city of Memphis, he learned more incantations. At age thirty, he went to the Chaldeans to learn astrology and finish his studies.
After this he returned to Antioch, having mastered all evil doing. He became a sorcerer, magician, and destroyer of souls, a great friend and faithful slave of the prince of hell, Satan, with whom he conversed face-to-face. After he converted to Christianity, Kyprianos himself recalled his meeting with the prince of darkness: “Believe me, I have seen the prince of darkness himself, for I pleased him by sacrifices. I greeted him and spoke with him; he liked me, praised my understanding, and before everyone said: ‘Here is a new Jambres, always ready for obedience and worthy of communion with us!’ And he promised to make me a prince after I died, and to help me with everything during my life on earth. He gave me a legion of demons to serve me. When I finished speaking with him, he said: ‘Take courage, fervent Kyprianos; arise and accompany me; let all the demonic ancients marvel at you.’ All of his princes were attentive to me, seeing the honor shown to me. The outward appearance of the prince of darkness was like a flower. His head was crowned by a crown (not an actual, but a phantom one) made of gold and brilliant stones, as a result of which the whole space around him was illuminated; and his clothing was astonishing. When he would turn to one or the other, the whole place would tremble; a multitude of evil spirits of various degrees stood obediently at his throne. I gave myself over entirely into his service at that time, obeying his every command.”
In his youth, Kyprianos was a friend of the demons, performing all their works, causing evil to people and deceiving them. His excessive disrespect and arrogance made him go to Antioch to challenge the magicians there, and he prided himself in his knowledge over them. Living in Antioch, he turned many people away to every kind of lawless deed; he killed many with poisons and magic, and slaughtered young men and maidens as sacrifices for the demons. He instructed many in his evil sorcery: some he taught to fly in the air, others to sail in boats on the clouds, and others to walk on water. He was respected by all the pagans and glorified as their chief priest. Many turned to him in their needs, and he helped them by means of the demonic power with which he was filled. Already, he was entirely in the depths of hell and in the jaws of the devil; he was a son of Hades, a partaker of the demonic inheritance and of their eternal perdition. But the Lord, who does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather to return and to live, in His unutterable goodness and mercy which is not conquered by the sins of men, deigned to seek out this lost man, to draw out of the abyss one who was mired in the filth of the depths of hell, and to save him in order to show to all men His mercy; for there is no sin which can conquer His love of mankind. He saved Kyprianos from perdition in the following way.
There lived at that time in Antioch a certain maiden whose name was Justina. She came from pagan parents; her father, Aedesius, was a priest of the idols, and her mother’s name was Cledonia. Once, sitting at the window of her house, Justina, who had then already reached womanhood, happened to hear the words of salvation come from the mouth of a deacon who was passing by, whose name was Praylius. He spoke of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the preaching of this deacon fell on good soil, into the heart of Justina, and uprooted her thorns of unbelief. Justina wished to be instructed in the faith by this deacon better and more completely, but she did not dare to seek him out, being restrained by the modesty of her chastity and purity. However, she secretly went to the church of Christ, and often hearing the word of God, with the Holy Spirit acting in her heart, she came to believe in Christ.
Soon she convinced her mother of this belief, and then brought her aged father to the faith. Seeing the understanding of his daughter and hearing her wise words, Aedesius reflected within himself: “The idols are made by the hands of men and have neither soul nor breath, and therefore how can they be gods?” While he was reflecting on this, he had a wondrous and divine vision from God: a great multitude of light-bearing angels, and in their midst was the Savior of the world, Christ, Who said to him: “Come to Me, and I will give you the Kingdom of Heaven.”
After rising in the morning, Aedesius went with his wife and daughter to the Christian Bishop Optatus, begging him to instruct them in the faith of Christ and to baptize them. He told the bishop about the words of his daughter and the angelic vision which he had seen himself. Hearing this, Bishop Optatus rejoiced at their conversion, and having instructed them in the faith of Christ, he baptized Aedesius, his wife Cledonia, and their daughter Justina. Then, having given them communion of the Holy Mysteries, he let them go in peace.
When Aedesius had become strengthened in the faith of Christ, the Bishop, seeing his piety, made him a priest. After this, having lived virtuously and in the fear of God for a year and six months, Aedesius in holy faith departed to the Lord. As for Justina, she valiantly struggled in keeping the Lord’s commandments, and having come to love her Bridegroom Christ, she served Him with fervent prayers, in virginity and chastity, in fasting and great abstinence. But the enemy, the hater of the human race, seeing such a life, envied her virtues and began to do harm to her, causing her many troubles and sorrows.
At that time in Antioch, there lived a certain youth named Aglaias who was the son of wealthy parents. He lived luxuriously, giving himself entirely over to the vanity of this world. Once he saw Justina as she was going to church, and he was struck by her beauty. The devil put shameful intentions into the heart of Aglaias. Being inflamed with lust, Aglaias by all means tried to gain the favor and love of Justina, and by means of deception to bring the pure lamb of Christ to the defilement which he planned. He observed all the ways by which this maiden would walk, and, meeting her, would speak cunning words, praising her beauty and glorifying her. Showing his love for her, he tried to draw her into fornication by a net of deceptions. The maiden, however, turned away from him and fled, despising him and not desiring even to hear his deceptive and cunning words. But Aglaias did not grow cool in his desire of her beauty, and he requested that she marry him. Justina, however, replied to him: “My Bridegroom is Christ; Him I serve, and for His sake I preserve my purity. He preserves both my soul and my body from every defilement.”
Hearing such a reply from the chaste maiden, Aglaias, being instigated by the devil, became more inflamed with passion. Not being able to deceive her, he intended to seize her by force. He gathered some foolish youths like himself to help him, and he lay in waiting in the path along which she usually walked to church for prayer. Aglaias seized her and began dragging her by force to his house. She began to scream, beat him in the face, and spat on him. The neighbors, hearing her wails, ran out of their houses and took the immaculate lamb, St. Justina, from the hands of the impious youth as from the jaws of a wolf. The disorderly youths scattered, and Aglaias returned to his house in shame. Not knowing what more to do, and the impure lust growing within him, he decided upon a new evil deed: he went to the great sorcerer and magician Kyprianos, the priest of the idols, and begged for his help. Aglaias promised to give Kyprianos a lot of gold and silver. After listening to Aglaias, Kyprianos comforted him, promising to fulfill his desire: “I will so manage that the maiden herself will seek your love and will feel passion for you even stronger than that which you have for her.”
Kyprianos invoked one of the demons who, he was sure, could soon inflame the heart of Justina with passion for this youth. Kyprianos sent Aglaias to secretly sprinkle the house of Justina with the contents of the demon’s vessel. When this had been done, the demon of fornication entered the house with the flaming arrows of fleshly lust in order to wound Justina’s heart with fornication, and to ignite her flesh with impure lust.
Justina had the custom every night to offer up prayers to the Lord. One night, she arose at the third hour of the night and was praying to God, when she suddenly felt an agitation in her body: a storm of bodily lust and the flame of the fire of Hades. She remained in this inner struggle for a long time; Aglaias came to her mind, and shameful thoughts arose in her. The maiden marveled and was ashamed of herself, feeling that her blood was boiling; she now thought about things which she had always despised as vile.
In her good sense, Justina understood that this battle had arisen in her from the devil; immediately she turned to the weapon of the sign of the Cross, hastened to God with fervent prayer, and from the depths of her heart cried out to Christ her Bridegroom. The demon was conquered by her prayer and fled from her with shame, and again there came a calm in Justina’s body and heart; the flame of desire was quenched, the battle ceased, the boiling blood was stilled. Justina glorified God and sang a song of victory. The demon, on the other hand, returned to Kyprianos with the sad news that he had accomplished nothing. Kyprianos asked him why he had not been able to conquer the maiden. The demon, even against his will, acknowledged the fact that he could not conquer her.
Then Kyprianos called a more malicious demon and sent him to tempt Justina. He did much more than the first one, falling upon the maiden with great rage. But she armed herself with fervent prayer and a more powerful labor: she subdued her flesh with abstinence and fasting, eating only bread and water. Having tamed the passions of her flesh, Justina conquered the devil and banished him with shame. And he, like the first one, returned to Kyprianos without accomplishing anything.
Then Kyprianos called one of the princes of the demons, informed him about the weakness of the demons he had sent, who could not conquer a single maiden, and asked this demon for help. He promised Kyprianos that he would seduce the maiden by other means. Kyprianos told him, “If you do not bring Justina to me, I shall adopt Christianity.” The demon took on the appearance of a woman and went to Justina. He began to converse piously with her, as if desiring to follow the example of her virtuous life and chastity. He asked the maiden what kind of reward there might be for such a strict life and preservation of purity.
Justina replied that the reward for those who live in chastity is great and beyond words, and that it was remarkable that people were not concerned for such great treasure as angelic purity. Then the devil, revealing his shamelessness, began with cunning words to tempt her. Hearing those words, Justina recognized the cunning deceiver, the devil, and, more skillfully than Eve, conquered him. Without continuing this conversation, she immediately fled to the defense of the Cross of the Lord and placed its honorable sign on her forehead, and turned her heart to Christ her Bridegroom. The demon immediately vanished with greater shame than the first two demons.
The proud prince of the demons shamefully returned to Kyprianos, who, finding out that he had not managed to do anything, recognized the fact that Justina could not be tricked or conquered. The demon admitted that he could not withstand the sign of the Cross. Then the demon, not wanting to be ashamed in front of Kyprianos, attempted yet another undertaking: he took on the form of Justina and went to Kyprianos. Kyprianos rejoiced, and rose up to embrace her. He said, “Welcome, Queen of Women, Justina.” Upon the mere mention of her name, the prince of demons who was disguised as her melted away and disappeared like smoke, and an unpleasant smell was given off by his body.
After this Kyprianos began to gain revenge for his shame, and by his sorcery he brought various troubles on the house of Justina and on the houses of all her relatives, neighbors and friends, just as the devil had done to the righteous Job. Kyprianos killed their animals, he struck down their slaves with plagues, and brought them to extreme grief. Finally, he struck Justina with illness, so that she lay in bed and her mother wept over her.
Kyprianos brought tribulations not only to Justina and her relatives, but also to her whole city, as a result of his untamable rage and great shame. He sent plagues to the animals and diseases to the men; and the rumor spread, through the activity of the demons, that the great sorcerer Kyprianos was punishing the city for Justina’s opposition to him. Then even the most honorable citizens went to Justina in anger and tried to persuade her not to grieve Kyprianos any longer, and to marry Aglaias, so that they could avoid greater misfortunes. But she calmed them by saying that soon, all the troubles which Kyprianos and his demons had brought would cease. And so it happened.
When St. Justina prayed fervently to God, immediately all the demonic attacks ceased; all were healed from the plagues and recovered from their diseases. When such a change occurred, the people glorified Christ and mocked Kyprianos and his sorcerer’s cunning, so that he could not show himself among men and he avoided meeting even friends because of his great shame. Having become convinced that nothing could conquer the power of the sign of the Cross and the name of Christ, Kyprianos came to his senses, rejected the devil, and informed him that he would convert to Christianity.
Hearing this, the devil began to beat and strangle Kyprianos in order to kill him. Finding no defense anywhere, and not knowing how to help himself and be delivered from the fierce hands of the devil, Kyprianos, scarcely alive, remembered the sign of the Cross, the power which had helped Justina to conquer demons’ power, Kyprianos cried out: “O God of Justina, help me!”
Then, raising his hand, he made the sign of the Cross, and the devil immediately leaped away from him like an arrow shot from a bow. Gaining courage, Kyprianos became bolder, and calling on the name of Christ, he made the sign of the Cross and stubbornly opposed the demon, cursing and reproaching him. As for the devil, standing far away from him and not daring to draw near out of fear of the sign of the Cross and the name of Christ, he threatened Kyprianos in every manner, saying: “Christ will not deliver you out of my hands!” Then, after long and fierce attacks on Kyprianos, the devil roared like a lion and went away.
Kyprianos took all his books of magic and went to the Christian Bishop Anthimus. Falling to the feet of the bishop, he entreated him to have mercy on him and baptize him. Knowing that Kyprianos was a great sorcerer, feared by all, the bishop thought that he had come to him with some kind of trick. The bishop thus refused him, saying: “You do much evil among the pagans; leave the Christians in peace, lest you speedily perish.” Then Kyprianos with tears confessed everything to the bishop and gave him his books to be burned. Seeing his humility, the bishop instructed him and taught him the holy faith, and then commanded him to prepare for baptism. He burned all of Kyprianos’ books before all the believing citizens.
Leaving the bishop with a contrite heart, Kyprianos wept over his sins, sprinkled ashes on his head, and sincerely repented, calling out to the true God to cleanse his sins. Coming the next day to church, he heard the word of God with joyful emotion, standing among the believers. And when the deacon commanded the catechumens to go out, declaring: “You catechumens depart,” Kyprianos did not wish to go out, saying to the deacon: “I am a slave of Christ; do not chase me out of here.” But the deacon said to him: “Since you have not yet been baptized, you must go out of the church.”
To this Kyprianos replied: “With Christ my God I live, Who has delivered me from the devil, Who has preserved the pure maiden Justina, and has had mercy on me. You will not chase me out of the church until I become a complete Christian.” The deacon told this to the bishop, and the bishop, seeing the fervor of Kyprianos and his devotion to the faith of Christ, called him up and immediately baptized him.
Finding out about this, Justina gave thanks to God, distributed alms to the poor, and made an offering in church. Kyprianos, on the eighth day after his baptism, was made a reader by the bishop; on the twentieth day he was made subdeacon, and on the thirtieth day a deacon; and in a year he was ordained priest. Kyprianos completely changed his life; with every day he increased his struggles, and constantly weeping over his previous evil deeds, he perfected himself and ascended from virtue to virtue. Soon he was made bishop, and in this rank he led such a holy life that he equaled many great saints. At the same time he zealously took care of the flock of Christ which had been entrusted to him. He made Justina a deaconess, and then entrusted a convent to her, making her abbess over other Christian maidens. By his conduct and instruction, he converted many pagans and acquired them for the Church of Christ. Thus, idol worship began to die out in that land, and the glory of Christ increased.
Seeing the strict life of Kyprianos, his concern for the faith of Christ and for the salvation of human souls, the devil inspired the pagans to slander him before the governor of the eastern region, saying that he had put the gods to shame, had converted many people away from them, and was glorifying Christ, Who was hostile to their gods. Many impious people came to the governor, Eutolmius, and made accusations against Kyprianos and Justina of being hostile to their idols and to the emperor and all authorities, saying that they were disturbing the people, deceiving them, and leading them to worship the crucified Christ.
These impious people asked the governor to sentence Kyprianos and Justina to death. Eutolmius listened to these people and commanded that Kyprianos and Justina be seized and placed in prison. Then, setting out for Damascus, he took them with him in order to give judgment against them. And when they had brought the prisoners of Christ, Kyprianos and Justina, to him, he asked Kyprianos: “Why have you changed your earlier glorious way of life, when you were a renowned servant of the gods and brought many people to them?”
Kyprianos related to the governor how he had found out the weakness and deception of the demons and came to understand the power of Christ, which the demons feared and before which they trembled, disappearing from before the sign of the precious Cross. He also explained the reason for his conversion to Christ, for Whom he declared his readiness to die. The torturer did not accept the words of Kyprianos in his heart, and commanded that the saint be hung and his body scraped, and that Justina be beaten on the mouth and eyes. During the long time that they were tortured, they ceaselessly confessed Christ and endured everything with thanksgiving. Then the torturer imprisoned them and tried to return them to idol worship. When he was unable to convince them, he commanded that they be thrown into a cauldron; but the boiling cauldron did not harm them, and they glorified God as if they were in some cool place. Seeing this, one priest of the idols, named Athanasius, said: “In the name of the god Aesculapius, I also will throw myself into this fire and put to shame those sorcerers.” But, he died immediately, even before the fire had barely touched him.
Seeing this, the torturer became frightened, and not desiring to judge them further, he sent the martyrs to the emperor Decius, describing all that had happened to them. Decius ordered them to raise incense to the idols. When they refused, Decius condemned them to be beheaded. When they were brought to the place of execution, Kyprianos asked a little time for prayer, so that Justina might be executed first. He feared that Justina would become frightened at the sight of his death. But she joyfully bent her head under the sword and departed to her Bridegroom Christ.
Seeing the innocent death of these martyrs, a certain man named Theoctistus greatly pitied them and, feeling the fire of God in his heart, fell down to St. Kyprianos and, kissing him, declared himself a Christian. Together with Kyprianos, he also was immediately condemned to be beheaded.
Thus they gave their souls into the hands of God; their bodies, however, lay for six days unburied. Certain strangers who were there secretly took them and brought them to Rome, where they gave them to a certain virtuous and holy woman whose name was Rufina, a relative of Claudius Caesar. She buried the bodies of the holy martyrs of Christ: Kyprianos, Justina, and Theoctistus. At their graves many healings occurred for those who came to them with faith. May their blessings and prayers be with us, and glory be to God forever. Amen.
This story is from the Church Heroes Series, St. Mark's COC, Boston. For more information, please visit www.coptic.net/boston.
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