The New Hieromartyr Cosmas, Equal of the Apostles, in the world Constas, was a native of Aitolia, Greece. He studied at first under the guidance of the archdeacon Ananias Dervisanos, and afterwards continued his education on Mount Athos, at the Vatopedi school renowned for teachers such as Nicholas Tzartzoulios (from Metsovo) and Eugenius Voulgaris (afterwards in the years 1775-1779 the archbishop of Ekaterinoslav and the Chersonessus).
Remaining on Athos at the Philotheou monastery to devote himself to spiritual labors, he was tonsured a monk with the name Cosmas, and later was ordained hieromonk. The desire to benefit his fellow Christians, to guide them upon the way of salvation and strengthen their faith, impelled St Cosmas to seek the blessing of his spiritual fathers and go to Constantinople. There he mastered the art of rhetoric and, having received a written permit of Patriarch Seraphim II (and later from his successor Sophronius) to preach the Holy Gospel.
So the saint began to proclaim the Gospel at first in the churches of Constantinople and the surrounding villages, then in the Danube regions, in Thessalonica, in Verroia, in Macedonia, Chimaera, Akarnania, Aitolia, on the islands of Saint Maura, Kephalonia and other places.
His preaching, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, was simple, calm, and gentle. It brought Christians great spiritual benefit. The Lord Himself assisted him and confirmed his words with signs and miracles, just as He had confirmed the preaching of the Apostles.
Preaching in the remote areas of Albania, where Christian piety had almost disappeared among the rough and coarse people entrenched in sin, St Cosmas led them to sincere repentance and improvement with the Word of God.
Under his guidance, church schools were opened in the towns and villages. The rich offered their money for the betterment of the churches, for the purchase of Holy Books (which the saint distributed to the literate), veils (which he gave women, admonishing them to come to church with covered heads),for prayer ropes and crosses (which he distributed to the common folk), and for baptismal fonts so that children could be baptized in the proper manner.
Since the churches could not accommodate everyone wanting to hear the wise preacher, St Cosmas with forty or fifty priests served the Vigil in the fields, and in city squares, where thousands of people prayed for the living and for the dead, and were edified by his preaching. Everywhere that St Cosmas halted and preached, the grateful listeners set up a large wooden cross, which remained thereafter in memory of this.
The apostolic service of St Cosmas was brought to a close by his martyric death in the year 1779. At 65 years of age, he was seized by the Turks and strangled. His body was thrown into a river, and after three days, was found by the priest Mark and buried near the village of Kolikontasi at the monastery of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos. Afterwards, part of his relics were transferred to various places as a blessing.
It is interesting to note that the initiative for the first church to be built in memory of Father Kosmas was taken by the Moslem ruler of Albania, Ali Pasha, who held Father Kosmas in high esteem not only because he believed Kosmas to be a holy man but also because Kosmas had earlier predicted great success for him. In 1810 Ali Pasha became master of the city of Berat and its environs. Within four years he succeeded in raising the money required to build the first church in honor of St. Kosmas. Moreover, he personally contributed not only toward the building of the church but paid to have a silver reliquary made in which Kosmas’ skull was placed and saw to it that the Saint’s service was composed. It was later printed in Venice by the Epirot printer Nicholas Glykys.
Feast Day: August 24
Selected quotes fem Saint Kosmas Aitolos
“This All-holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship. He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we along that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-holy Trinity. Again, out of their love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with temperance and virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever.”
“If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor. It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved.”
“If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.”
“The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame.”
“If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us.”
“God created woman equal with man, not inferior… My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are. God was crucified for her as much as for you. You call God Father, she calls Him Father, too. Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy. God does not regard her as inferior to you.”
“This prayer should never be absent from you: Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant.” (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: “O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME, A SINNER.”) Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal., frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country.”
APOLYTIKION IN THE THIRD TONE
By teaching the Divine Faith, thou hast richly adorned the Church and become a zealous emulator of the Apostles; for having been lifted up by the wings of divine love, that hast spread far and wide the message of the Gospel. O glorious Cosmas, entreat God that He grants us His great mercy.
Having led an irreproachable life on Athos, like Moses thou hast been deemed worthy of God’s manifestation; wherefore truly thou dost gladden the Church exceedingly by thy deeds and thy God-inspired words, O Father Cosmas, having contended for which, thou hast been adorned with a double crown.
Rejoice thou emulator of the Apostles, teacher and luminary of the Church; rejoice thou divine cultivator of piety, associate of Martyrs and peer of Angels.