THE SUFFERING OF THE MARTYRED MONK CYPRIAN THE NEW

Whose memory is celebrated by the Holy Church on July 5

Verses to the Martyr:
Altogether aflame with divine love,
Cyprian esteemed all torments as pleasures.

The small village of Klitzos of the eparchy of Litza and Agrapha was the birthplace of the holy martyred monk Cyprian. History has not bequeathed us any facts concerning the parentage of this venerable martyr, but, judging from his upbringing and other traits, he belonged to a Christian family with a highly moral temperament and a strong faith in God. Thus, aside from instructing him in grammar, they taught him piety and the fear of God, and how to preserve himself from the temptations of the world. After the death of his parents, the prudent youth forsook the world to preserve himself from its temptations, received the monastic tonsure, and was accounted worthy of ordination to the priesthood. Afterwards, he set out for the Holy Mountain where he acquired for himself a kellion with a church dedicated to the holy Great-martyr George, a holding of the Monastery of Koutloumousiou. There he accepted two other monks, and with them lived a cenobitic life, struggling in fasting, vigil and prayer, laboring like a diligent bee, gathering the honey of virtue from the flowers of ascetic labors. While there, divine love was ignited in the heart of this blessed one. Hence also he was transformed with the good transformation, and took insatiable delight in divine love for our Savior Christ, from Whom also he received this fervor, and he considered that nothing of what he did was worthy of that love.

What works and virtues did he practice? Complete abstinence, prolonged fasting, all-night vigil, prostrations and sleeping on the earth, unceasing prayer, during which he stood like an immovable pillar, perpetual mourning, ever-flowing tears, exalting humility, superhuman non-possessiveness, chastity of body and soul, unwavering and guileless faith, steadfast hope, and love, the crown of the virtues. In short, having gathered in himself all the multitude of the virtues, this thrice-blessed one became a model and example of the monastic life for all the fathers of the Holy Mountain.

Yet, he considered that all these things were not worthy of Christ Who died for us, and he began to think of offering even his blood for His sake. Wherefore, he ever desired, and, like a hart, thirsted for martyrdom for Christ. So much was he aflame and filled with fervor from divine love, that even martyrdom seemed insufficient for him to fulfill his longing, and he, like the divine Paul, cried out: “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35) And with the Prophet David he chanted: “What shall I render to the Lord for all which He rendered to me?” (Ps. 115:3)1 For indeed, of such a nature is divine love. On whatsoever soul it falls like dew, it refreshes it, and fills it with fervor, so that it disdains all things, even its very body, that it might be counted worthy to attain to the Desired One.

Being in such a state, therefore, this blessed man Cyprian seemed to be altogether a stranger to earth and to the things of earth; rather, he was like one wholly celestial, like a radiant angel, hastening as quickly as he could to bring to pass that which he longed for, and by martyrdom to be raised from earth to Heaven, and from things corruptible and vain to things incorruptible and everlasting. But the fathers of the Holy Mountain to whom he revealed his desire sought to hinder him, fearing the infirmity of the flesh and the uncertainty of the end. But in his blessed soul he ever meditated on death for Christ, and thus in the following manner he enjoyed that which he desired.

Trusting in the Lord Who said: “Behold, I send you forth like lambs in the midst of wolves,” (Mt. 10:16) and no longer able to endure his burning longing for Christ Who said: “I have come to send fire upon the earth” (Lk. 12:49) - that is to say, the earthen hearts of mankind, - he departed from the Holy Mountain and betook himself to Thessalonica.

Sojourning for several days in Thessalonica, he learned when the pasha was to be in the courthouse. On that day, he fortified himself with the life-creating Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ and, having prayed to the Lord God, beseeching Him to strengthen him amid the tortures, he fearlessly entered the courthouse and approached the pasha, saying: “O Pasha, I who stand before thee have spent several years on Mount Athos saving my soul. But one day, reading the Holy Scriptures, I came across a passage containing the words of God spoken through His prophet: ‘If thou wilt bring forth the precious from the worthless, thou shalt be as My mouth’ (Jer. 15:19). Thus, aflame with love for my neighbor, I have decided to point out to one of God’s creatures who hath been deceived by the devil, how deeply he hath fallen in his ignorance, enticed by the enemy of the human race who, like a ravening lion, seeketh the destruction of all men. He hath deceived man and taught them to honor and worship idols instead of the true God; others he hath led into profound delusion through false prophets. It is in this manner that the devil doth hold thee in his chains, through thy faith in the false prophet Mohammed, and holding sway over thy hardened heart, doth not permit thee to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the true Light that cameth into the world to save mankind. By His death upon the Cross, He hath broken those chains and fetters in which the devil hath held the entire human race for several millennia and, wresting His creation from his power, He hath accounted them worthy of inheriting the blessings of paradise. Thus, having heard that thou art a prudent man, I have decided to state the truth. Forsake thy delusion and thy faith in the false prophet Mohammed and believe in Jesus Christ, through Whom thou shalt receive salvation and eternal life, for the Christian faith is the true faith; but thine is false. Moreover, investigate thoroughly and examine well and truly Who Christ was, and who Mohammed was. Then wilt thou clearly see that thy Mohammed was nought but a self-proclaimed prophet who preached his own private teachings; but Jesus Christ is the true God in two natures, Who, exposing every false teaching in His divine Gospel, saith thus: ‘I am come in My Father’s name and ye received Me not, if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive’ (Jn. 5:43). Thus all of you that have been carried away by the teaching of Mohammed consider him a prophet, while in actual fact he is the enemy of God and a charlatan.” The pasha, hearing this denunciation directed against his prophet by a man he did not know, thought that Cyprian had taken leave of his senses and therefore ordered the guards to beat him and to drive him out.

Not having obtained his desire, the holy Cyprian left Thessalonica, for he reasoned that he would not receive the martyric end he desired at the hands of the unbelieving Turks in that city. Accordingly, he set out for Constantinople in the hope of suffering there for Christ. On arriving there, he was troubled by the thought that here also his punishment would be confined to a beating, so he decided to commit his denunciation to paper and present it to the Grand Vizier. He therefore composed a letter in Greek in the following manner: “Wretched Moslems! How long will ye walk in deception and believe not in our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son and Word of God, Who came down from Heaven for man’s salvation, Who out of His great love for fallen mankind is ever ready to accept them that truly repent? Therefore, repent ye and believe in Christ the true God and, being reborn in Holy Baptism, ye will receive eternal life and shall denounce your false prophet as a deceiver and charlatan.” With this condemnation, the venerable Cyprian went to the palace of the Grand Vizier and, appearing at his quarters, asked the scribes to translate it into Turkish. At that time there was among the scribes a certain Moslem, who aforetime had been a Christian but had renounced Christ and accepted the Islamic faith. He took the paper from the saint and began to translate it into Turkish. On hearing what the holy one had written, the Turks were astonished and, heaping abuse upon him, cast him out. But at the very moment when they were driving out the holy one, it happened that certain Christians were there for some business of their own. When they saw the martyr being mercilessly cursed and beaten, they asked the cause for this treatment of the hieromonk. One of the guards took the letter and gave it to them, advising them to tell the monk to leave Constantinople as quickly as possible, lest someone denounce him before the Vizier. If such did occur, he would not so easily escape the headman’s scimitar or a sentence of penal servitude.

On receiving his paper, the martyr did not wish to leave the palace, but, on the contrary, sought to enter the courtroom where the Vizier was seated receiving petitioners. However, when he sought to pass through the crowd to enter, the guardsmen would not allow the saint to approach the Vizier, and they beat him and strove to cast him out. The chief of the guard, who was standing by at the time, asked his subordinates: “What is the cause of your strife with this poor monk? Why will ye not allow him to enter to tell the Vizier the sorrow of his heart?” But when he ascertained that the saint had insulted Mohammed and Islam, he straightway commanded them to bring him before the Vizier.

With much calm, the Vizier asked the saint: “Who art thou, O monk? Why hast thou come here and what dost thou seek?” “Thy salvation, most glorious prince,” replied St. Cyprian fearlessly. “Turn from thy false belief in Mohammed, whom ye Moslems call a prophet. What manner of prophet was he, and what sort of teaching did he have? Nought but the inventions of the human mind! Thus, O Grand Vizier, forsake thy deception, reject the charlatan Mohammed, believe on Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, and, on being plunged into the waters of holy Baptism, thou shalt receive eternal life!”

The Vizier marvelled at St. Cyprian’s boldness and asked him: “Whence comest thou, and in what monastery hast thou been nurtured?”

“All the churches and monasteries under Heaven are mine,” answered the saint.

“Hath the Patriarch of the Romans2 sent thee to me to instruct me?” the Vizier asked.

“I neither know the man, nor have I come from him,” answered the holy one.

“Mayhap thou art drunk?”

“I have not even had bread to eat today.”

“Perchance, then, thou art mad?”

“My mind is well and I think clearly, O Judge. If indeed I am what thou dost suspect me of being, would it be possible for me to wish thee what I desire for thee - to believe in Jesus Christ, the true God, and to be an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven? Paying no heed to my own peril at the hands of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, O Moslem, I have decided that, whatever may happen, I shall stand before thee and denounce thy deception. This a lunatic would not do!”

On hearing St. Cyprian’s reply, and perceiving his steadfastness, boldness and eloquence, the Vizier was bewildered and began to consider by what means he could lure the saint from Christ and bring him into the Moslem faith. Thus, he began at first to speak to him with flattery: “From thy replies I can see most clearly that thou art not drunk, nor art thou mad. Therefore, I suggest to thee rather to believe in the great prophet Mohammed. If thou wilt believe, I shall make thee a happy man. I shall confer on thee honors and will place thee in my palace.”

“In vain dost thou think to deceive me with thine obsequies and honors!” answered the saint. “Know that I will never deny my Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom I advise thee to believe and thus be accounted worthy of receiving mercy from Him on the day of the dread Judgment.”

The Vizier, perceiving that the holy confessor was implacable, sent him to the Sheikh-al-Islam, the mufti who was then the foremost teacher of Islamic law in the realm. When the holy Cyprian stood before him, the mufti angrily asked him: “Who art thou, and what are these things that they say concerning thee?” The courageous confessor began to repeat the same things he had told the Grand Vizier. The Sheikh-al-Islam, on hearing this blasphemy against his prophet, did not allow him to finish his denunciation, but ordered the guards to take him to the Phanar.3 There, in the sight of the most distinguished Christians, they were commanded to behead him. On hearing the death sentence, the holy Cyprian rejoiced and exclaimed from the depths of his heart: “I thank Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath strengthened me in the confession of Thy holy Name! I beseech Thee, O Lover of Mankind: vouchsafe unto me to be a partaker of Thine eternal glory! Amen.”

As they led the holy martyr through the streets of Constantinople to the place of execution, his face shone with joy. It was as though he hurried not to execution, but to a wedding banquet.

When they reached outside the gates of the patriarchal church, the holy martyr bowed his knees and, signing himself with the sign of the precious Cross, gave thanks unto God, Who had found him worthy to end his life by martyrdom. Yet even here the officer attempted to persuade him, and said:

“Believe in our faith; and do not become the cause of thine own death!” But the holy Hieromartyr Cyprian rebuked them, and then bowed his blessed neck. The Turks, perceiving that even in the face of death itself the courageous confessor of Christ would remain firm in his faith, ordered the executioner to cut off his head. Thus, with gladness and rejoicing, he received the crown of martyrdom. By his intercessions may we also, together with him, be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Translated from: Athonite Patericon, Vol. II, pp. 59-66 (in Russian), and checked against the Synaxaristes (in Greek).

Endnotes:

1. Psalm 115:3 - Orthodox Psalter, Copyright 2011, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado.

2. i.e., the Patriarch of Constantinople. This is how the Turks referred to the Orthodox Christians of Constantinople, being the descendants of the Eastern Roman Empire.

3. The district where most of the Christians lived and where the patriarchate was and is still located.

Taken from Orthodox Life, Volume 30, No. 5, September-October 1980, pg. 3-7, Published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.

 


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