Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 15 - Julitta and Cyricus, Martyrs


Julitta had known that eventually she would be recognized--one of the costs associated with influence and power was the loss of anonymity. Julitta had anticipated that the potential gain offered to the "good" citizens of Rome would prove too enticing for some poor soul and that, eventually, somebody would turn her over to the authorities as a Christian and a traitor to Rome. Diocletian's campaign against Christians was a popular one among those who sought power and influence and at the time there were few better ways to advance in society than to denounce one above you as a Christian--especially if they truly were one. So, it came as no surprise that the authorities eventually captured Julitta in Tarsus where she had fled after spending time hiding in Seleucia. Julitta had left behind the estate and wealth of her family in Iconium. In doing so, Julitta left everything her dear, departed husband had ever given to her except for the blessed memories she carried with her as she fled and the son she concealed behind her: a little boy named Cyricus. Julitta had expected all of this but what came as a surprise to her as she was interrogated by the governor Alexander was his intentions to make Cyricus a ward of the state.

Julitta had always known that her confession of Christ as Lord and Savior would likely cost her her life if she was ever identified and arrested but she had been too afraid to consider what might happen to her only son Cyricus. Perhaps Julitta assumed that Cyricus would escape her capture and be cared for by her Christian brothers and sisters. After all, she wanted Cyricus to be raised as a Christian but since he was only a very little child she knew that he had not yet made confession of his sins or profession of his faith and trust in Jesus. As the soldiers beat and tortured her she repeatedly insisted that she was a Christian and would never deny her faith in her Lord. But Julitta's mind and eyes drifted to Cyricus' face and while the lashes of her tormentors only made her bleed, fear for her son's soul caused her far more pain and suffering. Alexander refused to allow Cyricus to go to his mother as she bled and offered forgiveness to her torturers and, instead, decided to capitalize on Julitta's love for her son. Alexander sat the boy on his knee and tried to soothe him so that Julitta might look up and know that her son would be raised by those who outlawed the saving faith for which she was willing to die. Cyricus would be raised as a "good" Roman citizen before ever able to make a confession and profession of faith. Alexander wagered that Julitta was willing to die for her faith but that she might rethink her stance if it meant Cyricus would be raised by the deniers of Christ.

Cyricus continued to struggle to break free from Alexander's grasp and continued to cry out to his mother as she bled and prayed. Cyricus knew why they were torturing his mother: she trusted Jesus more than them--more than anybody. He had heard her many stories about Jesus and he loved every one of them. Cyricus had spent many days with adoptive uncles and aunts in the congregation where his mother worshiped and he knew the Christians to be a loving people devoted to a loving God. As he watched the soldiers beat his mother for her allegiance to Jesus he thought about what she had said it meant to be a Christian. Cyricus needed no more evangelism than to see the stark difference between the way of the Kingdom of God and the way of Rome. Cyricus pulled away from Alexander and yelled, "Let me go to my mother! I am a Christian, too." In this powerful statement of defiance, Cyricus made his first profession and officially placed his trust in the Lord that had led his mother to die while muttering her forgiveness for her executioners. Cyricus didn't understand everything about the faith of his mother but he knew the difference between Rome and the Kingdom of God and he knew whom he trusted. Alexander kicked Cyricus down the stone stairs and he bashed his head against the corner of one of the stairs. Cyricus died a martyr seconds after confessing Christ. Julitta rejoiced that his profession had come so easily and quickly and that she would be with Christ to welcome her in a few moments. Disgusted with the whole ordeal and the defiance of the child, Alexander ordered the soldiers to kill Julitta. They complied and sent her to rest in Christ with her beloved husband and son.

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