Prayer to St. Cyprian
Almighty God, We arereminded Through your servant St. Cyprian of Your Spirit always within us and Your continued presence in us, and of our oneness with You and the Church. May we always grow together and profess You in Faith, Unity, and Hope. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Who was Saint Cyprian
Cyprian was a wealthy aristocrat and a cultivated rhetorician from North Africa. He converted to Christianity around AD 246, and by 248, he was chosen Bishop of Carthage. A year later under the persecution of Emperor Decius, Cyprian went into hiding. During his absence, he corresponded with his Church and directed it with wisdom and compassion.
Regarding the matter of what to do with those whose faith had lapsed during the persecution, Cyprian held that they could be reconciled to the Church after suitable periods of penance; the gravity of the lapse determining the length of the penance. His moderate position at the time was one that prevailed in the Church over that of the rigorist Novatian, who led a group into schism at Rome and Antioch over this very question.
During another persecution of Christians, this time under the Emperor Valerian, Cyprian was placed under house arrest in Carthage. On September 14, AD 258, he was beheaded.
Many of Cyprian’s writings have been preserved. His letter No. 63 contains one of the earliest affirmations that a priest, in offering the Eucharist (“the sacrifice”), acts in the place of Christ, imitating his actions.
In his treatise, “On the Lord’s Prayer,” he wrote: “We say ‘Hallowed be thy Name,’ not that we want God to be made holy by our prayers, but because we seek from the Lord that his Name may be made holy in us, … so that we who have been made holy in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be.”
Although there is some question whether his book, “On the Unity of the Catholic Church,” affirms papal primacy, there is no question about the clarity of his statements on the unity of the college of bishops and the sin of schism. “The episcopate is a single whole,” he wrote, “in which each bishop’s share gives him a right to, and a responsibility for, the whole. So is the Church a single whole, though she spreads far and wide into a multitude of Churches… If you leave the Church of Christ you will not come to Christ’s rewards, you will be an alien, an outcast, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother.”
adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
Church Hymnal Corporation: New York, 1988
Some thoughts on St. Cyprianby the Reverend Will Scott, vicar of St. Cyprian’s in San Francisco
St. Cyprian was a complicated man of conviction, learning and compassion. Like all of us, he made mistakes and despite whatever challenges life presented sought community, connection and hope. There’s a lot we can learn from the past, from the stories of Saints, even those we might strongly disagree with, here are a few impressions that emerged for me as I recently reflected on the life and writings of the peculiar St. Cyprian, ideas that might be helpful to us today.
“Prayer with us is public and common and when we pray we do not pray for one but for the whole people because we the whole people are one.”