COSMAS AND DAMIAN THE HOLY UNMERCENARIES OF ASIA, AND THEIR MOTHER THEODOTA
Cosmas and Damian the Holy Unmercenaries of Asia, and their mother Theodota, David the Righteous of Evia
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 12:27-31; 13:1-8
Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
MATTHEW 10:1, 5-8
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian and their mother Saint Theodota were natives of Asia Minor (some sources say Mesopotamia). Their pagan father died while they were still quite small children. Their mother raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, Saint Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.
Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. They even treated animals. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Freely have you received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8). The fame of Saints Cosmas and Damian spread throughout all the surrounding region, and people called them unmercenary physicians.
Once, the saints were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whom all the doctors had refused to treat because of her seemingly hopeless condition. Through faith and through the fervent prayer of the holy brothers, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia got up from her bed perfectly healthy and giving praise to God. In gratitude for being healed and wishing to give them a small gift, Palladia went quietly to Damian. She presented him with three eggs and said, “Take this small gift in the Name of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearing the Name of the Holy Trinity, the unmercenary one did not dare to refuse.
When Saint Cosmas learned what had happened, became very sad, for he thought that his brother had broken their strict vow. On his deathbed he gave instructions that his brother should not be buried beside him. Saint Damian also died shortly afterward, and everyone wondered where Saint Damian’s grave should be. But through the will of God a miracle occurred. A camel, which the saints had treated for its wildness, spoke with a human voice saying that they should have no doubts about whether to place Damian beside Cosmas, because Damian did not accept the eggs from the woman as payment, but out of respect for the Name of God. The venerable relics of the holy brothers were buried together at Thereman (Mesopotamia).
Many miracles were worked after the death of the holy unmercenaries. There lived at Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchus. One day he went on a journey, leaving his wife all alone for what would be a long time. He prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the Enemy of the race of mankind took on the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends, and planned to kill the woman. A certain time went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place intending to kill her. The woman, seeing that disaster threatened her, called upon God with deep faith.
Two fiercesome men then appeared, and the devil let go of the woman and fled, falling off a cliff. The two men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked, “My rescuers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?”
They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened to her. Glorifying God, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers and tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life. From ancient times, their veneration spread also to Russia.
The Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor should not be confused with the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome (July 1), or the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Arabia (October 17).
Saint Theodota was the mother of Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia. They were all natives of Asia Minor. Her pagan husband died while her children were still quite small, but she raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, Saint Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.
The Hieromartyrs John the Bishop and James the Presbyter (known as "the zealot"), lived during the reign of the Persian King Shapur II1 and preached the true Faith, and many devout persons were attracted to it. The Saints were arrested by Shapur and, after being subjected to cruel torments, they were beheaded in the year 332 (or 343). Thus, they received unfading crowns of martyrdom from Christ.
1 Shapur II, known as the Great, was a Persian king, who reigned from 310 to 381, and persecuted Christians.
The Holy Martyr Kyriaina (Κυριαίνα) was from Tarsus in Clicia, and Saint Juliana was from the city of Roso. These virtuous women devoted themselves to works of charity and Christian philanthropy during the reign of Emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). They cared for orphans, comforted poor widows and treated the sick without charging any fee. They knew how to read and write somewhat, but they were very eager and always found a way to support the faith of those who suffered from poverty, injustice, or other trials.
Many times they succeeded in bringing pagans to the light of Christ through the Gospel, and by their own patience and goodness.
The Saints were arrested by Marcian, the governor of Cilicia, who tried to make them to deny Christ, but they refused to do this. Therefore, Marcian had Kyriaina's hair and eyebrows shaved, and forced her to walk naked through the streets of Tarsus. Then she and Juliana were taken to the city of Roso, where they were burnt alive. They endured this horrible death with admirable steadfastness and self-denial, thereby obtaining the incorruptible crown of martyrdom from Christ.
The Holy Martyr Hermengild, Prince of the Goths in Spain (+ 586), abandoned the Arian heresy and was converted to Orthodoxy. His father, Leovigild, was King of the Goths, and an Arian. Neither by flattery nor by threats was he able to sway his son to return to his former faith. Therefore, Leovigild gave orders to throw him into prison.
On Pascha, as Hermengild lay there in his fetters, Leovigild sent an Arian bishop to the prison so that his son might receive the vile communion of the heretics. The king offered to free Hermengild and restore him to his former position if he would partake of that communion. The saint, however, drove the Arian bishop away, upbraiding him for his heresy. An Orthodox priest came to the prison secretly and imparted the Life-Giving Mysteries of Christ to Saint Hermengild.
When the Arian bishop reported Saint Hermengild’s words to the king, he ordered him to be executed. After he was beheaded, angels were heard singing over his holy relics. The faithful glorified God when they heard of this, and the martyr’s father repented of his evil deed.
Although he did not accept Orthodoxy himself, he nonetheless permitted the holy Bishop Leander to convert his successor Rekhardt to the true Faith. After he became king, Rekhardt affirmed Orthodoxy in his domain.
The full account of Saint Hermengild may be found in Saint Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (Book I, Ch. 31).
Saints Caesarius, Adrian, Dacius, Savva, Sabinian, Agrippa, and Thomas suffered martyrdom at Damascus in the seventh century.
Saint James was tonsured at Docheiariou monastery on Mount Athos. Moving to the neglected Georgian Skete of Saint John the Baptist, he restored it under the supervision of Elder Ignatius.
Fulfilling various obediences in the monastery, Saint James ascended to the heights of purity. He was granted heavenly revelations, as was the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), so the Saint also beheld the mansions of Paradise and the depths of Hades. By God's grace, Saint James was able to perceive the mysteries of human hearts, and the secret thoughts of those who came to him.
He was also found worthy of the gift of performing miracles. While visiting Aetolia with his disciples, he healed the sick and instructed all. The Turkish authorities fabricated false charges against the Saint, accusing him of fomenting rebellion. In this manner, they tried to force Saint James into renouncing Orthodoxy. Saint James and both of his disciples, Deacon James and the Monk Dionysios, endured the most severe torments for seventeen days, receiving the crown of martyrdom on November 1, 1520.
The relics of the Monastic Martyrs, glorified by miracles, were placed in the monastery of Saint Anastasia, the Deliverer from Potions, in the small town of Galatista, near Thessaloniki. In a short time, the fame of the holy relics attracted about 100 brethren to the monastery under the Igoumen Saint Theonas (April 4), who was himself a disciple of Saint James.