Today we remember two saints, Cornelius, Pope and martyr, and Cyprian, bishop and martyr. Since we don’t want to be here all day, I thought I’d tell you a little about Saint Cyprian. I found an interesting account of his death in the Office of Readings for today.
“On the morning of the fourteenth of September a great crowd gathered at the Villa Sexti, as ordered by the governor, Galerius Maximus.” Notice that the governor didn’t just want to condemn Cyprian, he wanted to do it in front of a large crowd. These so-called Christians were becoming a problem for the gov and he wanted to make an example of their bishop.
The governor asked Cyprian, “Have you posed as the pontiff of a sacrilegious group?” Cyprian answered that that was him. “Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites.” He wasn’t taking about Christian rites, he was talking about ceremonies directed to the Roman gods. Cyprian had refused before and he refused again, even though he was being threatened with death.
The governor condemned Cyprian saying, “It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword.” Cyprian responded, “Thanks be to God.”
Cyprian’s people followed him to the him to the killing ground. When he saw the executioner coming he told his friends to give the man twenty five pieces of gold. He wanted to make sure that the man who was going to cut off his head got paid.
His friends spread cloths and napkins on the ground in front of him to keep his head from falling in the dirt. Then Cyprian covered his eyes with his own hands and the rest is history. His body was laid out at a place where everyone could see it so it would serve as a warning to others, but during the night, the Christians took the body away and buried it at a nearby cemetery.
Saint Cyprian isn’t the only Christian who died bravely in service to the Lord. The other Saint for today, Saint Cornelius also died a martyr’s death. But when we read these stories, hopefully
we’re inspired to make whatever sacrifices we need to make. I doubt that anyone is ever going to demand that any of us deny Christ under the threat of death. But we are assaulted on a daily basis by a society that would like to see us either give up our faith, or just go away.
We make decisions daily about our faith, hard decisions. Sin usually feels pretty good when we do it. Live, drink, and be merry. Let tomorrow take care of itself. But we know better. Let’s pray that we make the right decisions knowing that what we do sets an example for others just as surely as Cyprian and Cornelius set an example for us.
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