Augustine Sokolovski

On July 1, according to the liturgical calendar, the Church celebrates the memory of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian. In the calendars they are called unmercenaries and miracle workers. In keeping with that name, they were doctors by profession, but they practiced their craft for free. Even during life, and especially after entering Heavenly Glory, God gave the saints the gift of healing. Note that in the churches of the Julian calendar the day of their memory falls on Bastille Day on July 14th.

Competent medicine has always been a very expensive phenomenon. Obviously, even in the richly gifted Ancient Church, such a ministry of unmercenary doctors was very rare. Therefore, in the Orthodox tradition, unmercenaries form a separate category of holiness, which in the language of church terms is denoted by the concept of a special “face of holiness”. The face of holiness is the choir of saints or the face of another. For what is biblical holiness in Christ, if not the face of a person, in which a Different Living Being, God, is revealed.

The Holy Martyrs Cosmas and Damian are called by the Church in the ancient Roman Eucharistic Prayer. Among other very few saints, Apostles, martyrs, and Fathers of the Church, it was the unmercenaries who were the last to be awarded this honor. During the liturgy of preparation, before the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest, according to the charter, takes out a special particle of sacred bread in memory of the unmercenaries, and the names of Cosmas and Damian are mentioned first. Finally, the saints are called by the Church in prayers for health, and which is very important and exclusively in relation to the saints, in the sacramental prayer of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Unction as well.

Like other great pillars of the Ancient Church — James of Nisibis, Ephraim the Syrian, John Chrysostom — Cosmas and Damian were children of the Syrian Church. The great gift of Syrian Christianity to Church of Christ.

The memory of most of the saints of the Ancient Church was celebrated once a year. Such were the apostles, martyrs, teachers, and desert fathers, whose liturgical remembrance took place on birthdays, as the first Christians called their last day on earth. Living in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ, they hoped to anticipate Christ in their birthday, which was for them the expected genuine birthday, the return to the house of the Heavenly Father.

“Just once, gardens bloom in our souls,” Anna German (1936–1982) once sang. By analogy with the Great Paschal Solemnity of Jesus, celebrated once a year, the memory of the righteous became the only personal Easter of the saint. It was fitting to remember and remember the holy friends of the Lord every day, but to celebrate their birthday only once a year.

As the centuries passed, some highly revered saints gained additional days of celebration. It was on the day of finding or transferring the relics, as well as the dedication of the temple in one of the capitals of that time. But even in this respect, Cosmas and Damian became "saints of the great exceptions." The fact is that their memory was celebrated three times a year: 1) October 17 (30); 2) November 1 (14); 3) July 1 (14). So, over time, the belief arose among believers that they were talking about different saints!

According to life, Cosmas and Damian came from Arabia. They received their education in Syria. In the southeast of Asia Minor, in Cilicia, they lived and practiced the medical ministry. In 303, during the Great Persecution of Christians under Diocletian, they suffered for Christ, were tortured, and beheaded by order of the local Cilician ruler. The bodies of the saints were transferred to their homeland and found their resting place in the city of Cyrus, not far from the modern Turkish city of Kilis on the Syrian-Turkish border. According to life, the saints were brothers.

In 423-457 the city was the diocese of the great Father of the Church, Blessed Theodoret of Cyrus. Thanks to him, who glorified martyrs and unmercenary doctors in his works, the city became a place of pilgrimage from all over the world. So, the veneration of Cosmas and Damian, from the local became universal.

Soon two churches were erected in Rome in memory of the saints. Four temples with the same dedication were built in Constantinople. In addition to the imperial capitals, temples in the name of the holy doctors were consecrated in Scythia, Cappadocia, Pamphylia, in the most important center of Syrian Christianity and the Persian mission Edessa, and even in Jerusalem.

In the Roman church of Cosmas and Damian, the famous mosaic of the 6th century has been preserved. In this image, which draws its inspiration from the texts of Revelation, Cosmas and Damian stand before Christ along with Peter and Paul. “The House of God is dedicated to two martyrs who came from the east to give the people the hope of health and salvation,” the inscription reads. “Light from the east” - such, in the image of Christ the Lord, was the new biblical name of these saints (cf. Rev. 2:17).

Knowing well the eastern territories of his Empire, which during his reign were shaken by dogmatic disputes and church divisions, Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565) in a dangerous illness turned to the saints for help and received healing. In gratitude, he renovated, rebuilt, and embellished the church dedicated to them at Cyrus, and fortified the city walls.

At the same time, the church dedicated to Cosmas and Damian in Constantinople became a true hospital. Patients who could not be diagnosed were there waiting. Often the saints themselves helped the doctors, appearing in a dream or in a vision, and telling them how the treatment should be carried out.

Of the passions and lives of very many ancient saints, only fragments have come down to us. Often, it also happened that these fragments, related to different saints, were subsequently combined into a single image. In the case of Cosmas and Damian, the surprising opposite happened.

In 637, the city of Cyrus fell under the onslaught of the Arab invasions. Centuries later, it completely fell into oblivion, and only ruins remained on the site of the former Christian shrines. But the memory and veneration of the holy unmercenaries continued to live.

To understand what happened, it is important to be inspired by a well-known example. So, in the Russian Church Saint Nicholas, according to the place of his service as a bishop, is called Nicholas of Myra, while in Italy, according to the location of the relics, Nicholas of Bari.

A similar thing happened to Cosmas and Damian. Paradoxically and unexpectedly, many Christian nations have given shelter to these "homeless" saints. So that even their image and subsequent editions of the life literally began to "separate» them, Cosmas and Damian, like their contemporary, St. Nicholas, became wanderers in their heavenly glory!

That is why, in accordance with the given days of celebration, they are called Arabian in the place of their origin; they are also called the martyrs of Asia, according to the place of their service and suffering for Christ in Asia Minor. Finally, the Church called them Roman, after the ancient capital, where their veneration first became universal.

Three different celebrations speak of the universality of their ancient veneration, testify to the amazing multitude of cases of heavenly intercession of the saints in each particular place. As now, in times of confusion among the peoples (Lk. 21:25) and general division, the memory of Cosmas and Damian created a single great offering of thanksgiving to God from the whole universe.

“Will a woman forget her suckling child, so that she does not have compassion on the son of her womb? But if she also forgot, then I will not forget you, says the Scripture” (Is.49, 15). It turns out that when, after some time, the Christian people forgot, or did not know at all, about their origin and the details of their life, the Lord, by the power of grace, increased their veneration out of oblivion.

Thus, from the threefold repetition of their names with different geographical designations, a threefold annual memory of blessings of Cosmas and Damian was born. After all, holiness is nothing else as thanksgiving, which was embodied in the people of God.