Written by Monica Mikhail ~During the reign of Emperor Decius, there lived a certain young woman of Antioch named St. Justina who desired to learn about the Lord with all her being after hearing about His death, resurrection, and ascension from the mouth of a deacon who happened to be passing by her one day. These few words that she heard became rooted within her and from that moment on she began to cast away her unbelief. She eventually came to convert her father, Aedesius, and her mother, Cledonia, who were former pagans. Their earnest desire to learn about Christ led them to seek out Bishop Optatus of Antioch, asking to learn more about the faith and to be baptized in the Church. They continued to live their lives in reverence to the Lord.
In the meantime, a member of the Church by the name of Aglaias lusted after St. Justina and yearned for her to love him and eventually marry him. However, his continuous proclamations of his affection towards her and his shallow praises of her beauty led her to despise him. This did not hamper his passion for her for he asked her to marry him. She answered, saying, "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." This response did not stop him at all from pursuing her but rather he sought out the help of a magician, name Cyprian, to help him entrap St. Justina by the deception of demons.
Cyprian made it his goal to fulfill the promise he made to Aglaias, trying to ensnare St. Justina through many devious plans he came up with. However, the demons never prevailed against her and through many miraculous instances, by the power of God, St. Justina conquered the demons. After his many failures, the devil went to Cyprian and told him of his shortcomings and Cyprian became infuriated, demanding to know why the devil could not fulfill this task. The demon acknowledged the fact that he could not withstand the sight of the Cross and must flee from it. Of course, this left Cyprian even more upset and in an attempt to redeem himself, the devil took on the form of St. Justina and went to Aglaias. Upon seeing her, Aglaias embraced her and, saying her name, told her how glad he was that she had finally come to him. The devil vanished the instant her name was said because he could not even bear hearing the sound of her holy name. Aglaias ran and told Cyprian who was so ashamed that not even he, the well-known magician, could do what was asked of him that he grew bitter toward St. Justina and rained down misfortunes upon her and her family, but when St. Justina prayed, every evil thing disappeared. Cyprian then became convinced that St. Justina’s God was the true One, even more so when he realized the power of God’s name as he confessed it to the devil himself.
Cyprian was converted and climbed up the clergical ranks up until he was ordained a bishop. This is when he called upon St. Justina and ordained her a deaconess and gave her the role of an abbess of a convent. St. Justina, along with St. Cyprian, came to confess their faith later on to the emperor and were tortured and eventually beheaded together for the sake of Christ in the year 304 AD.
May we learn from St. Justina how to love Christ with all our being, willing to persevere through the times in life when the world tests our faith, knowing that God is always with us. Amen.