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Religious figures biography (3)
St Kosmas of Aitolia
, 1714 - 24/8/1779
Commemorated August 24
Seventeen centuries after the eminent St. Paul travelled across Greece,
a solitary man of God traversed the sandy country from border to border, sea to
sea, and island to island in a magnificent religious tour de force which stoked
the fires of Christianity and the flickering hopes of a people straining under
the yoke of Turkish oppression and despairing of a return to their ancient culture
after nearly four centuries of brutality. This rare specimen of Hellenic Christianity
was named Kosmas, a man whose devotion to God and country brought about a resurgence
of the Christian spirit of Greece
and anticipated the revolution which was to cleanse this proud country of the
oppressors with which it had too long been infested.
St. Kosmas was not only a priest but a prophet, scholar, patriot,
and miracle-worker as well, and each of these to a degree that merited sainthood.
The beginnings of Kosmas were inauspicious enough; he hailed from a village called
Mega Dendron, Aitolia, where he was born in 1714, the son of a simple weaver whose
wife was extremely devout and who undoubtedly influenced her son in his selection
of a religious career. He was baptised Konstas and attended public schools, thereafter
to be tutored by a family friend, Archdeacon Ananias. After spending some time
as a teacher, Konstas decided to attend a school at the Monastery
of Vatopedi on the Holy Mountain
of Athos, after which he entered the Monastery
of Philotheou where he was tonsured a monk and given the name Kosmas. In rapid
succession he became a deacon and then priest.
Kosmas had made up his mind to do missionary work, and he could think
of no better place to do so than in his homeland, particularly in the remote corners
of the rugged peninsula where the lack of churches and flight from persecution
had dimmed the light of Christianity. He was determined to revitalise the Christian
spirit of every isolated village of Greece
and to bring back to the forlorn the age-old Hellenic pride which the Muslims
had ground into the dust. He prevailed upon Patriarch Seraphim II to give him
a carte blanche to travel wherever he may be needed for whatever period of time
necessary for his mission, and as a preacher at large was given a patriarchal
blessing to carry out his noble purpose without interference and with complete
independence of action. In some of the more remote villages, where no priest had
been seen for years, Kosmas found adults who had not been baptised, a situation
which he remedied and which gave him added impetus in his crusade. When word of
his valiant missionary zeal reached his old monastery, one of his fellow monks
saw fit to make public Kosmas’ prophetic powers. Some of his prophecies
the people of the time could not comprehend, for Kosmas is not only on record
as having predicted that people would be able to converse with each other even
though they were miles apart (the telephone), but he also foresaw in the eighteenth
century that man would devise a means of flying, and while in flight, unleashing
a powerfully destructive force. Over a period of twenty-five years of undiminished
zeal, Kosmas travelled not only throughout Greece
and its beautiful islands, but he even journeyed through neighbouring Albania.
His prodigious feats in the name of the Lord included the founding
of over, 200 schools, charitable institutions, and small churches in rural areas
where itinerant priests could conduct the sacred liturgies as often as possible.
Wherever he preached he had a habit of planting a cross, as a result of which
his crosses dotted the countryside and served as reminders to passersby that somebody
cared what happened to them and that God had not forsaken them.
St. Kosmas had trod on Muslim toes, and in the area of Ioannina
he was arrested on spurious charges of conspiracy, found guilty, and hanged on
24 August 1779. On 21 April 1961 he was canonised a Saint by the Church -- although
he had been revered as one since his death in ceremonies presided over by the
late Patriarch Athenagoras who had always admired the gallant Kosmas.
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia web page
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