September 25, 2016

Optional Memorial of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs

The martyrdom of Sts. Cosmas and Damian
Beheading Of Saint Cosmas And Saint Damian, Fra Angelico, c. 1439.

September 26th, is the feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian, 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 charity and altruistic healing, they led many to the Christian faith. The esteem in which they are held and the antiquity of their veneration indicate the memory of early Christians, who after the Diocletian persecution, received a new cult of witnesses.

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.

The Miraculous Intercession of Sts. Cosmas and Damian

Many miracles were worked following the martyrdoms of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. The Orthodox Church recounts several intercessions owed to them, including this one: There lived in Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a man named Malchus. One day, he departed on an extended journey, leaving his wife behind. Before doing so, he prayed to Sts. Cosmas and Damian, entrusting her to their heavenly protection. A demon assumed the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends in an attempt to kill her. The demon called on the woman, saying that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. Believing him, she went along. The demon brought her to a solitary place with the intention of ending her life. Sensing mortal danger was imminent, the woman prayed to God for help.

Suddenly, two fearsome men appeared. The devil let go of the woman, fleeing in such haste, he fell off a cliff. The men accompanied the woman home where she thanked them effusively saying “My deliverers, 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,” before disappearing. The woman joyously told everyone about what had happened to her. In the church of Cosmas and Damian, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers, and Glorifying God, tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. From that on, time the holy brothers were seen as protectors of the inviolability of marriage, and conjugal harmony.

Together with Saint Luke, Sts. Cosmas and Damian are the patron saints of doctors and the medical profession. They are invoked in the Canon of the Mass, in the prayer known as the, Communicantes, and in the Litany of Saints. Their example as men of profound faith and science learning exemplifies God's blessing upon the art of healing and that respect for every form of science, which is an important part of Christian tradition. May you be magnified, Almighty Lord, by the memory of your Sts. Cosmas and Damian, for with providence beyond words, you have conferred upon them everlasting glory, and on us, your unfailing love.

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