August 30, 2014

Hieromartyr Kosmas the Aitolos (+ 1779) [1 of 2]

St. Kosmas Aitolos (Feast Day - August 24)

By Monk Moses the Athonite

The great Equal to the Apostles, the enlightener of the enslaved Nation, the wondrous, holy, glorious and beloved by the people Hieromartyr, was born in the village of Mega Dendron of Aitolia in 1714. Specifically he was from between the villages of Mega Dendron and Taxiarchae of the Trichonida Mountains in a district called Apokouro. His parents were from Epirus: "The parents of a pious son, by whom he was brought up and educated in the education and admonition of the Lord, as the Apostle says."

He learned his first letters in the Monastery of Panagia Segditsa in Parnassidos near Hierodeacon Gerasimos Lytsikas and in Lampotina Nafpaktia with the Hieroteacher Ananias Dervisanos, where he also taught. Then he went to the famous school Vrangianon Agrafon, which was founded by his compatriot Saint Eugenios the Aitolos (+ 1682). In this school he taught senior classes in philosophy, ancient Greek, theology, mathematics, medicine and other forms of encyclopaedic knowledge.

He then came to Mount Athos where he attended the Athoniada School. According to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite: "Because during those times there began with great fame the school of Vatopaidi on Mount Athos, he went there with many other special classmates; there he completed his grammar under the teacher Panagiotis Palamas and after studied logic under the teacher Nicholas Tzartzoulion of Metzovo. He was also taught by the most-wise Eugenios. Even before the schema as a layman he was decorated with the unique modesty of the schema, and he always struggled, exercising himself towards perfect asceticism." In this famous Vatopaidi School and near important teachers for some six years, he acquired quite a good education and personal educational views.

Later, in his teachings, he refers to the education he acquired: "My Christians, I wore out my life in studies forty to fifty years. I read the works of priests, and of the impious and the atheists and the heretics. The depths of wisdom I researched."

Elsewhere he said: "I learned many languages: Hebrew, Turkish, French, and from all the nations many things did I read."

Then he went to Philotheou Monastery. There he became a monk and took the name Kosmas and was ordained a priest. As he says himself: "I went, and on the Holy Mountain I wept for my sins for seventeen years." From an early age he had great love for God and neighbor. In studying the Gospels he thought by this he could help his brethren in the best manner. He prayed and he consulted with spiritual fathers and elders. He felt that he had to leave his beloved Mount Athos, to help the suffering people. St. Nikodemos continues: "The Nation was in danger of the following: On the one hand the Turks, on the other hand the Enlightenment - the atheistic Enlightenment - of France. The faith was constantly diminishing. Islam was in triumph. The Greek language was disappearing. Whole provinces forgot Romeik [Greek] and some spoke Turkish, others Slavic, others Arvanite and others Vlach. There was also foreign propaganda. Papal missionaries with Lutheran and Calvanist false apostles took advantage of the poverty of the people and infixed their crooked and infected nails into the immaculate and pure flesh of Christ's Church. The Saint understood the risk. The pessimistic messages had arrived at Mount Athos. He received them. He had to interrupt his asceticism in the Monastery. The Nation, the Church of Christ, awaited him. He had gained much of an education, over-achieved many virtues, was endowed with beyond-theoretical humility, and divine zeal burned in his heart."

At Philotheou he felt the call from God to undertake this great work "of enlightening and regenerating his Christian brethren. The Greeks had fallen into ignorance in regards to their religion, and this resulted in much wickedness, with large numbers changing their faith from Orthodoxy to Muhammadanism. Kosmas felt this deepest. Therefore he requested and received the permission of his elders to undertake such a mission. Leaving the Holy Mountain, he went to Constantinople, met with Patriarch Seraphim (1757-1761) and received from him written permission to preach throughout Greece.