Saint Cosmas of Aitolos
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. Apolytikion (Dismissal Hymn)
On the 24th of August we celebrate the memory of our holy and God-bearing father Cosmas of Aitolos, surnamed the Equal to the Apostles.
This great luminary was born in Mega Dendron (Great Tree) in Aetolia. He became a monk on Mt Athos, where he lived and prayed for many years, becoming perfect in the spiritual life and acquiring true love for God and neighbor.
The Saint’s heart with pierced with sorrow upon learning of the ignorance of the Gospel that had fallen on many of the Orthodox people, living under the oppression of the Ottoman Turks. At this time the Greeks were not allowed to openly educate children concerning religion or language in schools.
This famous painting, called the Krypho Sxoleio, demonstrates the great lengths to educate children in Orthodox learning during the Turkish Oppression.
The Saint thus went to Constantinople, where he studied the rhetorical arts and received the blessing of Patriarch Seraphim II to preach the Gospel. He travelled throughout Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Albania, preaching at every town he visited. Often not only Greeks but many Muslims would come to hear him, so great was his reputation for holiness. Though he always sought the blessing of the local bishop and the local Turkish governor before he preached in an area, his strong condemnations of dishonest business practices aroused the enmity of Orthodox Christian and Jewish merchants, who falsely accused him to the authorities. He was strangled by the Turks and thrown into a river in Albania, but his wonder-working relics were preserved. He reposed at the age of sixty-five.
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.
Let us have love for God and for our fellow men. Then God comes and brings us joy and implants the eternal life in our hearts, and we fare well in this life and also go to Paradise, there to rejoice forever.
Fortunate is the man who has these two loves in his heart, that for God and that for his brethren. He surely has God; and whoever has God has every blessing and does not bear to commit sin. Again, wretched is the man who does not have these two loves. Surely he has the devil and evil, and always sins. God, my brethren, asks us to have these two loves. As He Himself says in His Holy Gospel: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets.” Through these two loves all the Saints of our Church, men and women, attained sainthood and won Paradise. Whoever has blessed love, firstly for God and secondly for his fellow Christian, becomes worthy of receiving the Holy Trinity in his heart.
If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.
Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to deceive you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them. Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has?
Those of you who earn your bread by means of your toil and sweat should rejoice, because that bread is blessed; and if you give a little of it as alms it is reckoned as much. But those who live by means of injustice and grasping should mourn, for what you thus acquire is cursed; and if you give alms out of these they do not benefit you at all, being fire that consumes you.
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
Teachings of Saint Cosmas of Aitolos