Saint Cyprian lived in the third century, and became a saint the way many Christians became saints back then, after he was martyred for The Faith. What is really interesting about this particular martyrdom was that he was supposed to be martyred earlier, but recanted his Christian faith to save his own life. When he was released from prison, the remainder of his life was spent feeling tortured – he tormented himself over his decision and felt relief only when he reaffirmed his Christian faith…and then was martyred for it, for real this time.
(Yay, someone who did exactly what I would have done!)
In a letter he wrote, Saint Cyprian wrote some powerful words to a friend of his, words that seem so relevant these days:
“This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden…But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out…you know very well what I would see; brigands on the high road, pirates on the seas, in the amphitheaters men murdered to appease the applauding crowds…
Yet in the midst of it I have found a quiet and holy people… They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people Donatus, are Christians…”
St. Cyprian Third Century (The Inspirational Study Bible)
So much is going on in our worlds right now, and I say it in the plural because there’s the wider world (incredible political difficulty, staggering financial instability, war, abominable poverty and famine) and the worlds that belong to each of us, which hold their own sorrows, the ones that are hard to express to others.
And when these worlds are both mired in such volatility, how do you react? I know how I do: I flip out, and not very quietly, not in a very holy manner, that’s for sure. But it comforts me so much to know that there are people who do. That’s how you can tell the really holy ones, I think. The ones who live in their crazy worlds, who acknowledge all of the destruction around them, but who acknowledge God and His promise more.
I’m kind of reminded today about the parable of those who built their lives on sand and those who built their lives on rock. We all know the story – they both worked hard to build up their homes, but the test came when the rains did. The house built on sand slipped and collapsed; and the house built on rock took a beating from the wind and rain and water, but still stood.
It’s raining pretty hard right now, don’t you think? It’s raining Jurassic-Park rain, the kind that holds extra terror to it because there are tremendous monsters that walk among the drops.
I don’t know what a rock-built house looks like sometimes. I’m very much a sand-er, or at least it feels that way some of the time. I tend to react to everything with a sense of panic, but I’m learning.
During these incredibly difficult times, let’s find other good rock-builders to lean on to encourage us if we need it; or if we’re feeling secure, let’s find some sand-ers who need our support.
Let’s overcome the world.