To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

St. Cosmas of Aitolia

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stcosmasCommemorated August 25.

The following are a couple of selections taken from an article about St. Cosmas in the journal Road to Emmaus.  The entire article can be foundhere, which I encourage you to read. St. Cosmas as born in 1714 in Aitolia, a mountainous region of central Greece. He became a monk on Mt. Athos, and then an itinerant missionary, ultimately being martyred August 24, 1779, by the Turks in what is now Albania.

Like a second Paul, St. Cosmas cannot be fixed to any one place. He moved through Greece as the spirit of God lead him, and in his wake left a thriving Orthodoxy, resurrected almost single-handedly from the ignorance and malaise that had settled over the Greek Church after the coming of the Turks. . . .

Although we can recount his simple words, the spiritual power that moved through the quiet, unassuming monk cannot be recaptured in print. In his talks, Fr. Cosmas emphasized true Orthodox doctrine and practice, persauding his listeners to cease from evil acts, inspiring them to lead godly lives, and calling on them to give alms and build schools. He challenged his listeners to do acts of charity and forgiveness. His words and explanations were understandable to the simplest villager, and yet profound enough to touch the heart of well-educated rulers:

Shall we make a bargain? Let me take upon myself all the sins you have committed from the time of your birth until now, and you in turn, my honored friends, must take in their place four hairs. And what will I do [with your sins]? I have a deep pit and I will throw them into it. And what is this deep pit? It is the compassion of our Christ.

Now the first hair that I give you is your confession, the beginning of which we have already spoken of: “Forgive your enemies.” Will you do this?

(The crowds would open-heartedly answer, “We will, Saint of God.”)

Then you have taken the first hair. The second hair is to find an educated and virtuous confessor, so that you can confess all your sins to him. If you have one hundred sins and confess ninety-nine to the confessor and hide one, all your sins are unforgiven. It is when you commit a sin that you should be ashamed, but when you confess you should feel no shame…tell him everything that pricks your conscience–whether you have committed murder, or fornicated, or sworn falsely, or lied or haven’t honored your parents, or any such thing. And when you have confessed, behold, you have taken the second hair.

The third hair is when you have confessed and the confessor asks you: “Why, my child, have you committed these sins?” You must be careful not to condemn anyone but yourself and say, “I did these things because of my evil disposition.” Is it a difficult thing to accuse yourself? No, and see, you have already taken the third hair.

And now for the fourth. This is when the confessor gives you permission to depart. Do so with the firm resolve that it would be better to shed your blood rather than to sin again.

The four hairs are your medicine. The first is to forgive your enemies; the second, to completely confess; the third, to condemn yourself; the fourth, to resolve to not sin again, and if you can, to go to confession every day. If you can’t every day, then once a week, or once a month, or at least four times a year.


Written by Stephen

August 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm

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