Orthodox Thought for the Day


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

End of month resources

Information provided here may be useful as October 31 approaches...

Many Christians recognize the darkness that casts itself 'round about on the celebration of halloween each year. Some choose to ignore the festivities, some opt for alternative activities, some see it as purely harmless fun.  In recent years, I have come to view it as an opportunity for prayer and education.  Here below is a short life of Saints Cyprian & Justina; Cyprian who was once a sorcerer and converted to Orthodox Christianity in the third century.   

By reading the life of the Saints below, parents and young people can reckon that the phenomenon of sorcerers is not something that is pure fantasy found in fiction books only.  It is real power energized by demonic forces, but not power that is greater than that offered by God Himself, to Whom the demons are subject and tremble.  Note the power of the making of the sign of the Cross in this account...


Ss. Cyprian and Justina  
 In the reign of the pagan emperor Decius (249-251), there lived in the city of Antioch inAsia Minor a famous philosopher and magician whose name was Cyprian.  His parents were pagan and when he was still a child, they sent him to study sorcery and demonic wisdom. Cyprian learned all sorts of evil tricks which hewas able to perform with the help of demons.  He could send diseases upon people, produce thunder, cause damage to crops, and finally he even learned howto call forth the dead from the graves and force them to speak by means of various magic spells.  He became a great sorcerer, magician and destroyer of souls.  God had given him a good mind, but Cyprian used all his knowledge to serve evil.  He became the faithful slave of the prince of darkness.

Returning to Antioch, it was not long before Cyprian was teaching others how to perform evil tricks: some he taught to fly in the air, others to sail in boats on the clouds, still others to walk on water.  By the pagans he was greatly honored as a chief priest and most wise servant of their horrid gods.  The prince of darkness himself, as Cyprian later related, spoke with him face toface and praised him for his obedience, promising to help him in everything during his earthly life.  Cyprian described how he saw the prince of darkness sitting on a throne and surrounded by a countless number of evil spirits.

Through his wicked way of life, Cyprian had already placed himself in the jaws of the devil.  But the Lord Who, in His great love for mankind, desires that all men be saved, wished also to save Cyprian.  And He did this in the following way...

There lived in Antioch at that time a certain maiden named Justina who had chosen Christ as her bridegroom.  She served Him with her whole heart, with fervent prayer and a pure life.  Seeing her virtuous life, the devil, the hater of mankind, became angry and began to do her harm.

In the same city there lived a young man named Aglaias who was very rich and led a very worldly life of pleasure.  Once it happened that he saw Justina as she was going to church and he was struck by her beauty.

By evil trickery, the evil one planted in his heart shameful feelings towards the maiden.  Aglaias, burning with passion, tried by every means to win the love of Justina and thereby deceive her into falling into sin with him. But Justina firmly resisted for she had already chosen Christ as her bridegroom.  Finally, unable to deceive her himself, Aglalas asked Cyprianto help him, promising him much gold and silver if he should succeed.

Cyprian called on one of the evil spirits who proudly said that he should have no trouble implanting the same impure thoughts into the heart of Justina.  The next night, when Justina was praying, she noticed that some wicked thoughts had entered her head and she felt as though her body were possessed by a sinful attraction for Aglaias.  Recognizing that this was caused by the evil schemes of the devil, she only increased her prayers.  This put the demon to shame and he was forced to flee.  The inward battle stopped and Justina glorified God and sang a song of victory.

Then Cyprian sent a more powerful demon.  But, he, too, was unable to overcome the maiden.  Finally the prince of darkness himself, disguised as a woman, came to Justina and tried to deceive her using words of Scripture.  But Justina saw that this, too, was the work of the devil.  She protected herself with the sign of the Cross and the wicked one immediately vanished in great shame.

Seeing how powerless even the prince of darkness was against Justina, Cyprian became angryand demanded to know what weapon the maiden used against them.  The devil admitted: "We cannot behold the sign of the Cross, but flee from it,because it scorches us like fire and banishes us far away."

Having become convinced that nothing could conquer the power of the sign of the cross and the name of Christ, Cyprian came to his senses and said to the devil, "O destroyer and deceiver of all.  Now I have discovered your true weakness;  woe is me.  For, I, too, have been deceived.  Get away from me, you wretched one."  Angered by these words, the devil threw himself at Cyprian in order to kill him. But Cyprian protected himself with the sign of the Cross and the devil immediately leaped away from him like an arrow shot from a bow.

Fully realizing his sins, Cyprian went to the Christian bishop and begged him to give him holy baptism. He then gave him all his books of magic to be burned. Seeing his genuine repentance, the bishop baptized him and burned his books in front of all the believing people.  Cyprian completely changed his life and began to work not only for his own salvation, but also to help others.  Soon he was made a bishop and Justina became the abbess of a convent.

The devil was angry at this betrayal of one of his former servants.  He inspired the pagan rulers with the idea that Cyprian and Justina were their enemies because they were leading people away from the pagan gods to the worship of Christ.  Many deceived pagans went to the governor and demanded that Cyprian and Justina be put to death.  After they had bravely withstood many tortures, these two servants of the true God were beheaded with a sword.  The devil had thought to destroy Cyprian and Justina, but instead, they had gained crowns of martyrdom and eternal life with Christ our God, to Whom be glory and honor forever. Amen.

 (Adapted from the Life of Ss. Cyprian and Justina, The Orthodox Word , Vol.XII, 5)

Here's a thought--the lives of these Saints can make an interesting great Sunday School reading and opening for discussion in classes held close to Oct. 31.

I decorate our front door on halloween night with a sign that an artistic Orthodox friend created at my request--it has a circle with a line through it (like the old "ghostbusters" symbol) superimposed over the word Halloween, i.e., "No" Halloween.  Under it that it says, "Come back on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, for a sweet treat!"  Any kid who shows up on December 6 will get a bag of gold wrapped foil coins from our house and receives an awareness of the "real" St. Nicholas of Myra. 

Orthodox churches might consider offering this positive alternative on halloween night--an akathist prayer service to St. Cyprian.  The Book of Akathists, Vol. 2 published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, contains the Akathist to St. Cyprian.  St. Isaac of Syria Skete has two beautiful mounted icons of the Saint--one of Ss. Cyprian & Justina together(http://skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_id=671) and one of St. Cyprian alone:  http://skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_id=401 

These are just a few thoughts of ways that one can give glory to God and wise teaching through the lives of His Saints in contrast to traditional halloween fare.

Pres. Candace

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