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 Phoenicis 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 the 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, Chaldea, and the Indies, places at that time famous for superstition and
magical arts. When Cyprian had filled his head with all the extravagances of these
schools of error and delusion, he stuck at no crimes, blasphemed Christ, and
committed secret murders, to offer the blood, and inspect the bowels of children, as
decisive of future events. His skill was employed in attempting the modesty of
virgins; but he found Christian women proof against his assaults and spells. 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, akin finding her modesty inaccessible,
and resolution invincible 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 invocation
of the demons." St. Gregory Nazianzen adds, "Suppliantly beseeching the Virgin Mary
that she would succor 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. These assemblies were then held very early
in the morning, both to watch in prayer, and for fear of the heathens. 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 eves 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 Agladius, who had been the
first suitor to the holy virgin, was likewise converted and baptized. Justina herself was
so moved at these wonderful examples of the divine mercy, that she cut off her hair,
in order to dedicate her virginity to God, and disposed of her jewels and all her
possessions to the poor. 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 Photius, says he was made
doorkeeper, 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 Phoenicia, who resided at Tyre. Justina had retired to
Damascus, her native country, which city at that time was subject to the same
presidia!; 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 Diocletian, residing at
Nicomedia, who, upon reading the letter of the governor of Phoenicia 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 earned 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
afterward 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 vapors 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
The empress Eudocia, wife of Theodosius the Younger (who chose her for his consort
on account of her learning in philosophy), wrote the history of SS. Cyprian and Justina
in a beautiful Greek poem, consisting of three books, commended by Photius, who has
given an abstract of this work; but the poem itself is lost, with many other elegant
poetical compositions of that princess. The authentic Acts of these martyrs are
likewise lost. But we have still extant the confession of St. Cyprian, written by himself
the same that was made use of by St. Gregory Nazianzen and Eudocia; also two other
genuine pieces, the one entitled, The Conversion of Justina and Cyprian, the other, An
Account of their Martyrdom. Also Prudentius, hymn. 13, p. 215, St. Gregory Naz. Or. 18
(though they by mistake, confound this St. Cyprian with the first bishop of  Carthage)
and Photius, Bibl. Cod. 184, give us the history of these martyrs. On their Latin Acts  
see Card. Baronius, &c. On the Greek of two sorts, Lambecius, Bibl. Impel Vindeb t. 8,
p. 247,  257,262 Montfauc. Bibl Coislin p. 210, see Tillemont, t. 5; Ceillier, t 4' p. 89;
Orsi. t. 4, p. 80; Jos. Assemani, in Cal Univ. t. 5, p. 269, ad 2 Oct.    
[1] Butler's lives of the Saints
St Cyprian and Justina Martyrs
Lives of the Saints