I’ve been reading in my Spiritual Mothers book about Sts. Cyprian and Justina. They are commemorated on September 26 in the old calendar of the Latin rite, but they are remembered on a different date (which I forget now) in the Eastern calendar.
At any rate, St. Cyprian was anything but a saint in the beginning! He was a “magus” as my book calls him – and he had magic books to work spells, and he conjured up demons to do his dirty work. A wealthy nobleman, knowing of Cyprian’s skill in the dark arts, enlisted his aid in order to win the beautiful Justa as his wife. She had already declined and spurned his further efforts, and so he had tried to take her by force. That didn’t work either.
So the nobleman explained his problem to Cyprian, who agreed to take on the task. He conjured up a demon, explained what was needed, and sent the demon off to do the job. But Justa recognized what was up, and made the Sign of the Cross, and the demon fled in terror. When questioned by Cyprian as to his failure, the demon mentioned a “gesture”…but remained vague.
Cyprian summoned a more powerful demon to do the dirty deed – but that demon met the same fate. This demon was more specific as to the gesture and reported to Cyprian that it was the Sign the Cross which had caused him to flee.
The most powerful demon Cyprian could summon was also conquered when Justa made the Sign of the Cross. It began to dawn on Cyprian that he was on the wrong side of the battle.
And so Cyprian was converted, and became a deacon, then a priest, then a bishop. He tonsured Justa and gave her the name Justina.
The thing I like most about this story is that Justina discerned that a demon was after her, and she used that most powerful weapon, the Cross, to subdue it. I need to remember that.
I do use it, of course, but I think I lack the confidence and trust that Justina had.
I have some prayers for chasing away the demons. They are in Latin, and I am not sure of the translation of all of them – at least not all the way through. One of them, though, is primarily a prayer invoking the power of the Cross. Sometimes I actually remember to pray it before the demons have begun their attack on me in earnest!
The real Hermitess Photini has a few words to share on warfare with the demons, too, in the little book which bears her name (The Hermitess Photini, by Archimandrite Joachim Spetsieris). She relates that Abba Makarios was beset by thoughts compelling him to leave his cell, so he threw himself down at the door of his cell for 8 days. Photini says,
But since I am weak and therefore unable to fight with the demons as Abba Makarios did, I run to my Christ, Who comes to my help by driving away and obliterating the evil thoughts, and thus I don’t have to struggle for long. So anyone who has doubts about something should resort to prayer.
…The wicked one brings these and many other thoughts to my mind. But I run to my Christ, denouncing the devil, so to speak. Then he retreats immediately, and the evil thoughts disappear.
Doesn’t it seem that making the Sign of the Cross is tantamount to running to the Lord?
I run to my Christ.