Keeping your modesty like Justina by Gregory the Theologian

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This a lengthy commentary on the story of Cyprian and Justina. The original story is about how holding on to one’s purity attracts people to Christ. If you want to know the full account, click on one, or both, of the following links; I included one from the Orthodox Church and another from the Catholic Church

“There once lived a virgin of noble ancestry, endowed with the most perfect manners. Hear ye and exult, O virgins, and all who honor modesty and love purity. For this story is an elegy to both categories.

The virgin, Justina, was extraordinarily beautiful to behold. Of her divine David sings together with us, saying: “The daughter of the king is clothed in beauty” (Ps 45:14). True spouse of Christ, hidden beauty, living image of God, inviolate sanctuary erected to the Godhead, inaccessible sacred ground, enclosed garden, sealed fountain (thus Solomon also adds something), reserved for Christ alone.

I do not know why or how the great Cyprian was seized with passion for this absolutely uncompromising and virtuous virgin. And yet his greedy eyes, which of all the organs of the body are the most lively and eager, reached out to grasp even the most untouchable things. But Cyprian was not only possessed with love for her; he also tempted her. What singular stupidity, if he was hoping to seduce her, or rather what gross shamelessness in trying anything of the kind, and persisting in his attempts!

The devil also, from the beginning, insinuated himself into paradise to tempt the first man and stood amidst the angels when he sought to tempt Job; he did not even hesitate in the presence of the Lord himself, who was to defeat and condemn him definitively by his death; he tried to tempt him who cannot be affected by any temptation when, in the outward appearance of God, the devil saw the second Adam and, as it were, claimed to make him capitulate as had the first. He was totally unaware that, by attacking the humanity of Christ, he had struck a blow against the Godhead. Why then is it strange that, by means of Cyprian’s passion, he makes an attempt against the holy soul and virtuous body of Justina?

Nevertheless, he tempted her, using as an intermediary, not one of those women who are old hands at the trade, but an absolute devil who relished bodies and pleasures. For the rebellious and envious powers readily accept a task of this kind, because they are trying to add many others to their own ruin. And the payment for this mediation was in sacrificial victims and libations and that affinity which is contracted through the blood and odor of the victims. For such a reward has to be paid to those who do these favors.

But pure and divine souls are quick to discover in this the sport of the devil, even though he is very subtle in deceiving and various in his attacks. Thus the maid, as soon as she noticed the presence of evil and sensed the threat, what did she do and what method did she oppose to the artifice of the evil one? Despairing of all other remedies, she took refuge in God and against this detestable passion took as her defender her husband, that is, the same who had freed Susanna from the wicked elders and saved Thekla from a tyrannical courtier and from an even more tyrannical mother.

But who is this husband? He is Christ, who strengthens our spirits and raises up those who are drowning; he hurls the legion of wicked spirits into the abyss; he snatches away the just man from the pit in which he had been placed as food for lions and, stretching out his hands, binds the proud; he frees from the whale the fleeing prophet who, even while inside the whale, had kept the faith. And, in Assyria, he frees the children from the flames; they are kept cool by an angel, and to the three children a fourth is added.

Recalling these and other circumstances and imploring the Virgin Mary to bring her assistance, since she, too, was a virgin and had been in danger, she entrusted herself to the remedy of fasting and sleeping On the ground.”

Gregory Nazianzen, Sermon 24, 9-II; PG 35, 1177 C-1I81 A

If you are interested in more quotes on Virgin Mary, you can find them in Mary and the Fathers of the Church on Amazon in both in Kindle and paperback formats.


Gambero, L., 1999. Mary and the Fathers of the Church 1st ed. Translated by Buffer, T., San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

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