September 25, 2017

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Brother Martyrs

Saints Cosmas and Damian

Optional Memorial - September 26th

Saints Cosmas and Damian, the patrons of doctors, were 3rd century martyrs and brothers born in Arabia, who became skilled physicians, greatly revered in both the Orthodox and Latin rites. Little is known about them, but popular piety attests they were twin siblings and medical doctors, never charging a fee for their services. For this they were lauded, "Unmercenaries". By virtue of their selfless charity and altruistic healing, they led many to the Christian faith and to Christ.

As gifted physicians, Sts. Cosmas and Damian obeyed the words of our Savior: “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8) Numerous cures resulted from their intervention. On one occasion, they were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whose condition was seemingly hopeless.

Through the brother’s fervent prayer, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia’s heath was restored. Immediately, she got up from her bed and gave thanks to God. According to legend, their most famous healing was grafting the leg from a recently deceased Ethiopian to replace another patient's cancerous leg. This miraculous procedure is depicted in many paintings and illuminations showing Sts. Cosmas and Damian performing the surgery.

Their renown in the Christian communities of Asia Minor was such that when the persecution under Diocletian began, Cosmas and Damian were targeted. In 287, by order of, Lysias, the Prefect of Cilicia, Cosmas and Damian were arrested and ordered to deny their faith. They refused and underwent a series of tortures including stoning, crucifixion and being shot by arrows. They received the crown of martyrdom by beheading. Their younger brothers, Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius, who were close to them throughout life, shared in their martyrdom.

Their names are included in the Roman Canon of the Mass. According to Father Clifford Stevens: "The great honor in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate some historical memory among the early Christians who came out of the great persecutions with a new cult of Christian heroes. Cosmas and Damian were not only ideal Christians by their practice of medicine without fee, they also symbolized God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition."

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